More than a movie

A love of classic films and an extensive knowledge of both old and new movies give film buff Dennis Holman – owner of Olympic Video in Merrimack – an edge when it comes to customer service.

Holman is the proprietor of Merrimack’s only dedicated video rental store. His is an enterprise unlike the now-defunct, impersonal Blockbuster store that for some time loomed in a shopping plaza not far away.

His is an enterprise unlike any mom-and-pop convenience store that stocks a few video rentals alongside bottles of ketchup and bags of chips. His business also is unlike the online rental agencies, the ubiquitous red rental boxes outside supermarkets, or the corporate giants that sell, but don’t rent, video movies.

The difference is that Holman offers customers more than a movie. He can give them an education about the stars, the plots and the trivia related to just about any title. He is a walking, talking, smiling depository of all things film. He also admits to being a reluctant witness to the decline of personal service in the video rental industry.

“People will come in and ask for a film,” Holman said. “The only problem is that instead of a title, they’ll tell me, ‘You know, there’s a cowboy and the guy has a horse and there’s a woman who sings.’ I’m proud to say I usually can tell them what movie they’re describing, or I can ask a few more questions and then tell them.”

Holman opened his store in 2007 in a space that once housed a pharmacy. The store is nestled next to Florence’s Restaurant – in a compact shopping center across from the Lobster Boat.

Holman’s wife, Sharon, and son, Matthew, 10, credit him for his entrepreneurship and for offering customers a video store unlike those found elsewhere. It is a video store owned by a film know-it-all – or a film “know-it-almost-all,” Holman admits.

“Videos and movies have always been a hobby of mine,” Holman said. “I’ve been a fan of the industry and of movie making forever. I have a love of film that is inspired by my grandfather, who especially loved Bogart and Cagney and so many other greats. Kids today don’t seem to be watching those movies. They’re missing out on some amazing art.”

Holman said his customers tell him they especially appreciate the fact that he, or his staffers, Candice Torres and Cyndi Kiernan, can quickly hone in on any of 20,000 titles in a wide array of genres presented in formats of DVD, Blue Ray and also VHS. He rents games, too – Xbox 360, the ever-popular Wii games and others.

Classic movies are abundant, Holman said, and fill numerous display racks. New releases are stocked. Action thrillers, adventure, suspense and good, old monster movies live at Olympic Video.

Soldiers, cowboys and Indians, spacemen, aliens and historical figures have their turn on the counter when customers come to the store and their selections are finalized.

He calls his a “family friendly business.” He does not stock any adult movies or x-rated materials.

“I wanted this store to be a family place,” Holman said. “After all, my own son is in here with me quite often. I used to have some of that content in the early days but I got rid of it. I feel to this day that I did the right thing.”

In the midst of that observation, Merrimack’s Bob Camberlain walked in with his youngsters, Cole, 9, and Emma, 7. He caught the gist of Holman’s remarks and volunteered his opinion of Olympic Video.

“We love it here,” he said. “It’s a unique place. It’s got none of the boring cookie-cutter nonsense of the big, corporate stores. Sure, you can buy a movie at one of those stores but can anyone there tell you about the story behind the movie?”

Deb Courtemanche, executive director of the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce, a group of more than 200 business owners from the Greater Merrimack area who promote and encourage business growth, also was contacted for comment.

She said she has on several occasions patronized the store and each time was impressed with the high level of customer service.

“Dennis will recommend things, reserve things; make sure you have a pleasant experience,” Courtemanche said. “There’s no vending box, red or otherwise, and no other outlet that I know of that ever will replace a community resource as valuable as Olympic Video. You can go in there and say, ‘I have four 10-year-olds coming over tonight. What do you recommend?’ And he’ll send you home with winners.”

Holman said it’s easy to be a “people person” when one is so enthusiastic about the product – film, old or new. He said film is art and that just about any film can be viewed as a time capsule – from the early “talkies” to the glamorous ’40s to the flower-powered ’60s and the special-effects-saturated wonders of today’s film producers.

“When I have the extra resources to buy collectible films, I get the strange, the obscure, the rare,” Holman said.

Currently, he is on the lookout for a film called “The Swimmer,” a surrealistic movie from 1968 in which Burt Lancaster makes his way home by swimming through a series of backyard swimming pools in an affluent suburb.

“The images that are captured on film are moments in time,” Holman said. “A film makes an impression on you. There is an emotional connection, one that often stays with you for life.”

Olympic Video, 456 Daniel Webster Highway, is a place to explore when one wants personal service, classics, new releases or a wide array of films not often found elsewhere. Memberships are free and various specials are frequent. Information can be found online at www.olympicvideostore.com or by calling 429-0766.