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The History Behind Erol’s Video Club

by Prince Of Petworth July 22, 2011 at 11:00 am 22 Comments

On Tuesday, we saw the old Erol’s Video Club sign that was revealed after the Blockbuster sign was dismantled on Barracks Row. There were some fond memories of Erol’s from many readers so I wanted to share this note I received from the founder’s grandson:

My grandfather Erol Onaran moved to DC from Turkey in the early 60’s and opened an electronics sales and service place called Erol’s TV. The business did well, but didn’t take off until he began renting videotapes around 1980. Erol’s Video grew from a handful of local locations into a large chain, eventually reaching over 250 stores and stretching from Raleigh to New York, and expanding west into cities like Cleveland and Indianapolis. But by the late 80’s the industry had changed, and a family-run business was unable to compete with the big, public chains. Facing mounting losses and dwindling market share, we sold the company to Blockbuster in the early 90’s.

A few years later, my father Orhan Onaran purchased the old TV shop back from Blockbuster and began selling and fixing PC’s in addition to TV’s. But that didn’t really go anywhere until we began bundling unlimited dial-up internet access with the PC’s we sold. At the time, internet access was sold by the hour, so the unlimited access business model was a huge hit. Erol’s Internet began to grow very rapidly during the dot com boom, signing up hundreds of thousands of subscribers on the East Coast by the mid-90’s. But like so many businesses back then, the company never actually made much money. Rather than go public to raise capital, we sold the internet business outright to RCN, who rebranded the internet service as Starpower in the local market.

My grandfather passed away in 2005, and we finally closed our last repair shop shortly thereafter. We’re very proud of our nearly 40 year run in DC, and we’re glad that people remember the businesses fondly. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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