The Union Recorder

Local News

May 30, 2014

Video Bazaar stays busy after nearly 30 years in business

MILLEDGEVILLE — If you've ever passed by Video Bazaar in Milledgeville, you probably just assumed it was like any other video rental store.

However, if you've been inside, you probably realized it's much more than that.

Michaelina Simmons and her daughter, Karen McGee, have always gotten their fix from serving the public in not just video rentals, but in whatever business they were part of.

Back in the early 1960s, a time when there were hardly any sit-down restaurants in Milledgeville, the mother-daughter team opened up the Pizza Villa at 800 S. Elbert St., a place that they would end up being their home away from home.

“The main goal of owning a business on at this location was providing a need for this side of town,” McGee said.

About 20 years later in the early 1980s, the duo decided to ditch the food industry and opened a new store at the same location, Imports Bazaar, where they sold wicker furniture and floral arrangements.

At the time, the only video rental stores in Milledgeville were Curtis Mathis and Video Jones, which were both in the mall on the North side of town.

One day while McGee was standing in line at Curtis Mathis to rent a video, she noticed how successful they were and realized that she wanted to do the same thing.

After talking it over with her mom, McGee and Simmons decided to open their own video store to go along with Imports Bazaar. They took a trip to Atlanta and returned with a little under 100 VHS tapes.

After a few years of running their combined businesses, which the called “Imports and Videos,” they decided to drop the Imports business, leading to the official opening of Video Bazaar in the late 1980s.

“Being the only video store on the South side of town, the video business was good to us for a long time,” McGee said.

Customers back then would pay a membership fee of $25 and would come and go frequently.

Along with video rentals, they also sold lottery tickets, which is one thing McGee said her mom was passionate about.

“My mother loved to gamble a little, so we were one of the first businesses in town to get a Georgia Lottery machine,” she said. “Some days there would be just as many people in line for the lottery as there were to rent videos.”

They even had two “Fantasy 5” winning tickets sold out of their store.

McGee was dog lover, and for many years she would bring the dogs that she raised to the store for interested people to purchase. She saw it as a great way to combine her love of animals with her love of working with her mother.

McGee also began grooming dogs throughout the day in the back of the store, which she continues to do today.

A typical day for her these days consists of taking in all of her grooming appointments at 9 a.m. and finishing them all up before 5 p.m., all while tending to customers who come into the store to rent a movie or play the lottery.

After many solid years, the rise of technology in the movie industry began taking a toll on Video Bazaar.

The Internet eventually led to the ability to pirate and watch movies for free. Businesses like Netflix and Redbox were also causing a decline in the number of customers they saw.

Even through these tough times, McGee and Simmons still have confidence and love for their store and all of their regular customers.

The love of her mother is also what keeps McGee going.

“This building has been her life,” McGee said about her mother.

Though the business has not received many awards from the city, the real reward for them is the relationships formed with regular customers and employees, which McGee says is better than any plaques hanging on the walls.

Simmons and McGee both know nearly every customers' name.

“We have the best customers in the world. I guess that's why we have a business that we want to keep going with regardless of anything else.”

As far as their future plans for Video Bazaar, McGee kept it simple: “We'll be here for a little while, as long as she [Simmons] wants to keep coming.”

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