Next to the Ritual flagship café on Valencia Street in the Mission is Lost Weekend, one of the last remaining video stores in the city and really, one of the last few really good video rental stores in the country. While Ritual Coffee’s café is undergoing renovations this month, they are popping up a coffee service inside Lost Weekend.
Lost Weekend has been suffering through the crises of modernity: streaming video services, successive waves of video standards, and a changing neighborhood. Lately, the fears of raising rent, and reduced business, have come to a head. Jeremy Wheat, perennial employee of the month at Lost Weekend, said that they’re “laughing to hide the tears.” He means that literally: Lost Weekend hosts regular comedy in the basement Cinecave—or Cynic Cave, depending on the night—which helps keep the lights on.
This brick and mortar holdout offers an experience that you can’t get from Netflix—you can actually go in, walk around, see videos as objects, and talk to a person who might give you the kind of life-changing movie recommendation that an algorithm is specifically designed to avoid. Unfortunately, Wheat said that the neighborhood has changed so much that most regulars of the video store have been squeezed out by skyrocketing rents—many longtime regulars now live in the East Bay, and might still stop by, but it’s a long trek to pick up a rental.
Jeremy Wheat seemed particularly sad about was the way that the neighborhood and the community had changed—he’s lived nearby for nearly a quarter of a century, and between the video store, the café next door, hosting a trivia night at a local watering hole, and the comedy nights, he pretty much knows everybody. Everybody that can still afford to live there. He said, “There are three Indian restaurants on one corner over there. How did this happen?”
Wheat also mentioned to me that Lost Weekend is actively looking for a partnership to move into the space that the Ritual Pop-up now inhabits. Both Ritual owner Eileen Hassi-Rinaldi and Wheat told me that the pop-up was a natural, mutually beneficial partnership, but it wouldn’t make any sense in the long term. The two longtime neighbors are looking out for one another. Unfortunately, this neighborly good will is one of the reasons that Lost Weekend hasn’t already found a partnership: a café wouldn’t work because Ritual is next door. A record store is out because there’s Aquarius Records across the street. A bookstore might work, in the same way that the other San Francisco video store, Le Video, rented out part of their space to Green Apple Books, but the Mission already has a number of bookstores: Borderlands, Dog Eared, Alley Cat, and Modern Times, all within a short walk of Lost Weekend. Lost Weekend doesn’t want to step on any neighborhood toes.
The café has helped bring people into the video store, though. Wheat said that it probably hasn’t boosted rental business much, since the video store and the café only overlap for a few hours. Maybe the added foot traffic will help in the long run, though. Wheat admitted that the press might help a little. “Every time a piece comes out we see old regulars showing up to buy a ten-rental card. But then they might not stop by for another year.”
Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. “We’ve got coffee, Freaks and Geeks is on. This is perfect.”