Hastings shoppers remember the “olden days” while looking for deals

Nearly everything at the Hastings store on Brooks Street is being liquidated to prepare for the company’s going out of business. (Photo by Martin Kidston)

By Martin Kidston

The banners hanging throughout the Hastings store on Brooks Street said it best in bold, black print: “Nothing held back; everything 10-30 percent off; going out of business.”

Four days after Hastings Entertainment Co. announced it’s plans to liquidate its merchandise as part bankruptcy proceedings, shoppers around Missoula flocked to the store looking for deals on books, video games, toys and memorabilia.

Many also acknowledged the changes in technology that played a hand in the company’s downfall.

“When I was really little, there was a VCR and DVD player, and now I’ll just have a Blue-Ray player, and I don’t even remember how the VCR works,” said one young girl. “We’ve had Netflix for three years.”

Hastings was founded in 1968 as a retailing division of Western Merchandisers – a books and music wholesaler. Back then, the Beetles hit “Hey Jude” topped the Billboard charts, making the record one of the year’s top-selling albums.

With times changing, Hastings added a number of product lines over the years, becoming the largest direct comic retailer in 2010. It moved to redesign its stores in 2013 by placing a greater emphasis on gifts, toys and action figures, among other things.

By then, the sale of books, music and videos had declined.

“They had one on of the biggest selections of good foreign films I found in town, said one woman, who identified herself as Heather. “It does seem like everyone lately is buying stuff online, instead of hard copies of things.”

Her friend, Ryan, agreed, saying shoppers can find most items online.

“You can stream most anything,” Ryan said. “We don’t really download anymore. It’s kind of sad, the rental business is almost gone.”

Those of an older generation recalled the days of Beta and the advent of the VCR player. Many tagged along with parents in the early 1980s to the newfangled “video store,” where a collection of VHS tapes allowed families to watch movies at home instead of the theater.

Denise Haycook said the demise of Hastings was simply a sign of the times.

“Everything is electronic and digital – you can rent everything from your house and you don’t even need to leave,” said Haycook. “I do like to come in here when I’m looking for CDs or a book or something unique, but we’re even getting away from that. You can be an Amazon member and get it delivered to your door in two days for free.”

With Hastings going out of business and the likes of Blockbuster little more than a memory, Haycook will turn to Red Box and pay-per-view movies when she’s in the mood to watch one.

Streaming a movie over the internet eliminates the need to return it to the store on time.

“Remember when you’d have to wait to see the Wizard of Oz once a year around Thanksgiving?” she laughed. “Now, these kids can watch it all day long. It’s just different than it used to be. I’ll miss that a little.”

Haycook recalled the 1960s cartoon, “The Jettsons,” and how everything portrayed in the show seemed so futuristic and high-tech. She laughed at the thought while noting today’s technology, including Skype and FaceTime.

“Just yesterday, I looked at a suitcase you can sit on and ride through the airport,” she said. “I thought, ‘Really, how lazy are we getting?’ Movies from your couch, sit on your luggage and ride it through the airport – everything has changed. It’s just a sign of the times.”

Even the small girl admitted to watching cartoons on the internet.

“We’re going to miss the Anime selection they (Hastings) have,” she said. “But there’s this site on the computer called ‘watchcartoons.com,’ and I sometimes go on there. But it’s real lagging and it freezes up a lot.”

But at least it doesn’t eat the video tape.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com