More than 30 years ago, Calvin Inouye and his friends gathered around the television to watch movies played on a video home system, or VHS - a fairly new gadget to homes at the time.
Friend Jeffrey Yamanishi, also known as the "movie guru," used to buy VHS tapes of movies from Oahu and bring them back to Maui for him and his buddies to watch at his bachelor pad.
"His icebox was empty, but he was rich in movies," said fellow friend and business partner Alfred Cantorna.
Paradise Video's interior with lots of shelves of video tapes is shown in this photo.
Paradise Video owners Alfred Cantorna (from left), Calvin Inouye and Jeffrey Yamanishi opened their first store 30 years ago in Happy Valley. They started their business by renting out their own collection of VHS tapes. At its peak, the company expanded to four locations across Maui and had more than 30,000 VHS tapes in its collection. Paradise Video has the largest DVD rental library on Maui, with more than 13,000 titles. The video store provides other services such as disk scratch removals and computer maintenance/repairs.
The three men then thought, "Why don't we rent them out, that way we can use the money to get more movies?" Inouye recalls.
So they did and opened up Paradise Video in Happy Valley.
"When we first opened up the store, it was kind of a hobby for us," said Inouye, 56. "We didn't think we were going to be in business for 30 (plus) years. Thirty (one) years later, we are still here."
Just more than a month after big movie retailer Blockbuster closed its doors in Kahului, Inouye said Paradise Video is "still kicking," although it hasn't been located in Happy Valley for some time. Now it's in Kahului near Sheik's Restaurant on Wakea Avenue.
"When Blockbuster moved in, we thought, 'Oh gosh, here we go.' They ended up closing (sooner) than we did," Inouye said.
Blockbuster still maintains its Kihei store.
Paradise Video has outlasted a national retailer of movie rentals and has survived the various business climates that have eaten up many local and small video and now DVD movie rental businesses.
Inouye said he believes that the small business founded by himself, Yamanishi and Cantorna has fared well over the years because it offers a variety of titles, even the old films and foreign marital arts movies, which are harder to find online. He calls the foreign martial art movies selection the business's niche.
He adds that there is still an appeal to walk into a movie rental store and peruse the titles.
"I think some people just like to look at the boxes and read what it's about," he said.
The store has around 4,000 members, although there could be more, Inouye said.
Paradise Video customers do have membership cards. They are free with local identification and a charge card.
Inouye said Paradise Video has new releases every Tuesday and offers specials Sunday through Friday.
The store offers help with resurfacing DVDs, although he cautions that all cannot be repaired. The shop also serves as a computer drop-off site for Kamehameha Schools Maui high school student Ian Aquino's computer repair and website business, Inouye said, adding they are happy to help a fellow young business owner start up.
Back when they began the store, Inouye, who now lives in Kahului, worked on his family farm in Kula, and took on the store full time. His business partners worked elsewhere and put in time after work. Yamanishi, 58, of Kahului works at Walmart and Cantorna, 56, of Wailuku works at Goodwill Industries.
The men started off with 50 titles, mostly VHS tapes, although there were some Beta movies, at their Happy Valley store in 1981. It was Yamanishi's personal collection.
Then they moved to a Central Avenue site in Wailuku and around 1983 or '84 they moved into a longtime site at Puuone Plaza near Tokyo Tei restaurant. They stayed there for 10 to 15 years.
At that time, the store boasted 20,000 titles.
In the business's heyday, in the late '80s and early '90s, it had stores also in Kahului, Kihei and Pukalani, in addition to its Wailuku store.
But eventually those stores closed because of expiring leases, nonrenewal of leases or because of higher rents.
The Kihei store behind the Jack In The Box closed after about five years because the location wasn't visible enough and didn't attract as many customers as hoped, Inouye said.
Eventually Paradise Video had only one store, where it is now on Wakea Avenue. It has been there for around a decade, Inouye said.
In the early 2000s, Paradise upgraded its whole inventory to DVDs because VHS tapes were becoming obsolete.
Even though the business had its high and low points, the men were able to keep the business alive.
"I don't think there was ever a time we thought, 'Let's sell off the business and close,' " Inouye said.
But he admitted Blockbuster did "make a dent" in the business.
"We still had our regulars. . . . Now that they are closed (in Kahului) we have some that are coming back again, from going away from us to them," he said.
Inouye added that the Redbox, which provides movies on DVDs at automated retail kiosks, has also made an impact on the business.
But "there's still something to be said about mom-and-pop stores and brick-and-mortar stores."
Cantorna said that after more than three decades, the store is in their blood.
"For us, even though a lot of video stores are closing down, it still remains part of our lives. It's not as profitable as it was in the past. We just enjoy the business, people still enjoy coming into a video store."
But he added for the most part he's pleased that the business hasn't affected his longtime friendships with his old buddies.
"We thought this might be a current trend (31 years ago). This would be something worth going into. It proved right."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.