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A shift change at 8th Street Video

DCN Correspondent

By now it’s almost 4 o’clock. Earl Sullivan’s workday is coming to an end. In just minutes his replacement will walk in. Sullivan has had the store open since 9 a.m. He’s seen about a dozen customers so far today — his regulars.

The life-long Duluthian maneuvers his way around the store like he owns the place — because he does. Sullivan bought 8th Street Video on Ninth Street in June of 1997. He’s been opening the store at 9am and leaving around 4:15 each day since, turning his store over to someone else, who will close up at midnight.

The store walls feature rows of DVD’s. In one corner, 8th Street Video serves sweet treats, coney’s, and beverages. Right now Sullivan is in the front of the store pouring brewed coffee from a pot into a carafe.

After pouring the coffee Sullivan returns to his place behind the store’s counter. This is where Sullivan leans, with his face hung low and his fingertips touching as he stares out the store’s front windows at cars passing.

A customer opens the white screen door and turns the handle to the store’s front door. He stands between the two doors with his hands still resting on each.

“You got it??

“None yet, Jeffery.?

“Can you reserve it for tomorrow for me??

“You got it.?

The man leaves the store as quickly as he opened the doors and Sullivan takes out a clipboard. He writes a note for himself. Jeffery, a store regular, wants a copy of “The Dark Night,? a new release that is checked out but Sullivan should have copy back by tonight or tomorrow.

Sullivan’s next customer is a teenage girl who has been a customer at 8th Street Video since before she was born. She enters the store carrying five DVD cases. After Sullivan asks her how school is she replies “good? and leaves the store. “Bye Dayna,? Sullivan calls out as she exits the store to walk back to her mother’s car.

Sullivan shifts the stack of DVDs that Dayna left and begins to record their return into the computer.

As he routinely punches in the data, he lifts his glasses just above his eyes and they somehow sit in place on his eyebrows.

Once the movies are recorded Sullivan enters a small room with a pink wooden doorframe to the left of the counter. Sullivan’s shuffles can be heard from the front of the store. He shelves the returned DVD cases numerically and returns with the shells to display on the shelves that line the store.

A steady stream of customers visit the store between 3:40 and 4:00, including two college-aged girls returning movies, a man in his 20s who returns a movie and pays a $3 late fee, and Sullivan’s brother Mark who is hassled about paying with a $20 bill and using up all the change in Sullivan’s cash register.

Mark rents a DVD and returns two. But before his brother even sets his returns on the counter, Sullivan has the phone to his ear. Mark is returning “The Dark Knight.? Less than 10 minutes later, Jeffery will reappear to claim his prize.

Just before 4, Sullivan’s replacement enters the store carrying a plastic SuperOne bag. Tonight it’s Nate Hergert.

“Hello Nathaniel,? Sullivan said, although Hergert likes to be called Nate. “I’m the only one that calls him that and it’s just to aggravate him.?

Sullivan and Hergert work together for just a couple of minutes before Sullivan heads up the stairs to his office.

“I don’t really know what he does up there for 15 minutes,? Hergert said.

It’s part of Sullivan’s closing routine. He finishes up in his office and walks back down the stairs wearing his jacket and jingling his car keys. He’s off to pick up his wife from work, just as he does every day when he leaves the store.

“I better go; she does not like it when I’m late.?

Sullivan won’t return to the store again until the morning. On his way in he’ll drop his wife off at work.