MARBLEHEAD — Marc Vaucher walked into Chet’s Video & Candy Shoppe on Essex Street with his son Grant during last week’s school vacation, looking to rent a few movies.
“It is a ‘Die Hard’ kind of day,” Vaucher told owner Chet Strout.
It was like a scene from years past, when people headed to movie stores to rent a DVD, instead of relying on Redbox at the supermarket, On Demand on cable TV or Netflix online.
Chet’s is celebrating 20 years in business while most other movie rental stores on the North Shore have gone under, including Blockbuster in Beverly and Swampscott, Movieworks in Danvers, and West Coast Video in Salem.
“We get traffic from Salem, Swampscott, Lynn and Beverly from people who want to go to a brick-and-mortar store,” Strout said.
The only similar rental store he knows of is in Newburyport, some 30 miles away.
Strout, who grew up in town, and his wife, Carrie Thomas, said it’s customer service and small-town charm that has allowed the business to survive.
“There is a first-name basis for both customer and owner,” he said.
The store opened in 1992 with 1,000 VHS tapes, after the couple had spent several years looking for a spot. Strout had been working as a bartender and fence contractor.
“I was driving through the intersection, and I looked to my left and did a double take,” Strout said. He called his wife and they took “one look before deciding to open the store here” — at 1 Essex St., right in the Five Corners area of downtown. The couple bought the building in 2005 and now live on the third floor.
They purchased their first DVD, “Top Gun,” in 1998.
As a movie buff, Strout is able to recommend films that customers may not have seen. They carry documentaries, independent and foreign films in addition to the latest Hollywood hits.