Business 

It's a wrap for Crystal Video

Crystal Video is apparently closing its doors for good.

The quirky neighborhood independent video store located on South Higgins almost shut down in February 2009 before an altruistic financial backer stepped in at the 11th hour. But despite the temporary fix, the competition from on-demand movies and Netflix has finally taken its toll. While the near closing last year was due to general economic hardship, this time owner Tim Huffman says that his default on loans has led to the store's foreclosure.

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"The last time was sort of my own volition and I really wanted to let everyone know how sorry I was," Huffman says. "This time I didn't want to rage against the dying of the light but just sort of let it slip quietly under the water, to mix my metaphors. I got some great community support, but ultimately it didn't change the big picture, which is that video stores are just on their way out."

Jace Laakso, the original owner of Crystal Video when it opened 23 years ago in the lobby of the Crystal Theatre, still carries the business contract and stepped in once Huffman defaulted. On Friday, May 14, at 1 p.m., Laakso will start selling the store's collection of videos, furniture, fixtures and other assets to pay back creditors and recoup his own losses.

"I'm really disappointed that it's come to this," Laakso says. "It's a sad day for Missoula to lose such a great collection of foreign films and independents. But it's the economy."

Despite a tough ending, Laakso insists Huffman did what he could in a tough situation.

"I really appreciate the effort that Tim put into the store," he says. "I just want to make sure that Tim gets his props for doing the best that he could to keep the store going."

Meanwhile, Huffman started his first day working at DirecTV this week. It's an irony he's quick to note.

"I've crawled out of the belly of the beast and gone to work for it," he says. "I miss everybody that I got to see at the Crystal every day, terribly. That's definitely the hardest part."

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