The end of an era: a reflection on Hastings Entertainment’s demise

hastings illustration

BY : GARRETT FRIEMEL & JENNA GIBSON | ILLUSTRATION : MICHELLE MARTINEZ:

Gone but not forgotten. Hastings Entertainment; the retail chain that rented movies, sold books, movies, music, novelties and video games; went out of business Oct. 31, 2016, leaving behind empty store fronts, fond memories and a lingering sense of loss.

While growing up, AC graduate, Bailie Myers and her best friend spent every weekend at Hastings. “Hastings was somewhere we could go when there was nothing else to do. Most other coffee places would close early so we went to the Hardback Cafe for coffee and then browsed through the books and vinyl,” Myers said. As she got older and had a pocket full of disposable income, Myers would spend the majority of her paychecks on used books since Hastings “had the best selection in town.” The end should not have come as a surprise. Hastings was essentially gone long before the company closed its doors. The teenagers who once would flock there for the latest music began downloading their albums. The moms who once stopped by the store to rent movies for their children turned to Netflix instead. Empty storefronts now brandish “for rent” signs. The familiar green and white video rental cards remain in former patrons’ wallets, a relic from an earlier time.

Financial issues and new technology led to Hastings’ downfall. “Pressures from financial institutions as well as quickly changing products and media consumption did not allow for enough time in the end to make all the changes that were necessary for Hastings to survive,” said Kevin Ball, former Hastings vice president of marketing and current director of station operations for KACV-TV and FM90. Ball worked as Hastings vice president from 2004 until 2013, then again from January 2016 until August 2016.

Ball, like others in Amarillo, misses Hastings. “Many people have stated that they are purchasing less media, even online, because they cannot browse the store’s huge and varied selection.  People tended to discover new things when they shopped the store. Online purchases tend to be more pre-searched and less a sense of discovering something new as you experience in a treasure hunt,” Ball said.

Taylor Gray, a biology major at Amarillo College, worked as a customer sales associate at Hastings for three months before the store closed. “My first day of work was when my boss told the whole store we were going out of business. I was very confused and disappointed at this, but at the same time I saw it coming. In the back of my mind I kind of knew that Hastings wasn’t doing too well financially,” Gray said.

Nevertheless, he has fond memories of his short time spent working for the multimedia retailer. “The Hastings employees would always yell at me for my stubborn efforts at trying on their cool novelty animal masks. They claimed it was a health code violation, but it didn’t stop me for making a fool out of myself. RIP Hastings.”

Maddisun Fowler, AC student media coordinator, grew up going to Hastings and said it played an important role in her life. “I can remember going to the two-story Hastings with my mom and dad when I was in third grade and picking up my first two CDs – Hanson and Spice Girls. I used to buy albums on iTunes and then turn around and go pick up a tangible copy of the exact same album from Hastings. I just wanted to have a copy to listen to in my car,” Fowler said.

“When my family would buy a car, I would always check to see if there was a CD player and an auxiliary port.” For Fowler, and many others, new technology has created new habits. “I bought a new car this November and didn’t even realize there was no CD player until a few days later. I guess that shows how I’ve come to consume music. Somewhere I started to purchase songs strictly on iTunes or stream from Pandora or Amazon Prime,” Fowler said.

Myers said she was “nothing short of devastated when I heard Hastings was closing. I mourned for several reasons. I would no longer have a local place to get books and vinyl for an affordable price and I didn’t have a place to go when I wanted to do nothing but giggle with my friend, drink coffee and look at the strangest books we could find. I have almost driven to the Hastings on Georgia Street several times since it’s closed.”

According to Ball, the chain’s closing has impacted the entire area. “The local community will be ever more reliant on internet shopping for entertainment products and media. There is definitely a sense of loss of the entertainment value of shopping for fun things that is hard to replicate online,” Ball said.

Hilary Hulsey, film studies instructor and digital communications coordinator for Panhandle PBS said she misses the Hasting’s of her childhood but loves the convenience of streaming services. “This is something we’ve seen before in film history and it’s something I try to teach in my classes. Technology has consistently determined how audiences act as consumers. When television drew audiences out of theatres into their homes, the film industry struggled. It happened again when multiplexes were built, and many downtown theatres with one screen met their demise,” Hulsey said.

“The Paramount Theatre on Polk is a prime example. And now, consumers are able to access films anywhere, so they no longer need rent from places like Hastings or Blockbuster. Now, we just have to wait for the next big thing to oust streaming services,” Hulsey said.

Gray said the “death row” period of Hastings was melancholy. “Employees as well as customers would seem depressed about the financial state of our company. What was once a fun and thriving store, over time turned into a lifeless ghost town,”
he added.

For Fowler, the melancholy feeling lingers. She said she wonders if she had some responsibility for the chain’s demise. “If I would have bought more albums there or more movies, then maybe they’d still be open. I remember walking around the night they announced they were closing. There was a man near me and I overhead him say, ‘I just never thought this day would come – that Hastings would ever close. I’ve been coming here every Friday night for years.’ I think that was the general consensus with everyone. Hastings was just supposed to always be there – we definitely took it for granted.”

Fowler was at one of the Hastings stores the night it closed forever. She said it looked as though it had experienced an apocalypse. “I walked in and looked to the left where the rental movies once were and saw nothing but shelving and caution tape to keep people out of that area. There were people grabbing posters and tucking them by the dozens under their arms. People were scavenging through the movie selection to see if there were any movies left worth getting. It was just so surreal,” Fowler said.

Gone are the days we can swing by Hastings to flip through CDs but that does not mean the memories will not stay with us. Like an old friend who has moved away, Hastings Entertainment, you will be missed.

Pick up a copy of the Spring 2017 Current on newsstands around campus or read the entire edition online at http://amarillocollege.info/volume-87-print-editions/

4 Comments

  1. Great story. I have fond memories of the Hastings store on 45th and the treasures that I found there in the children’s book section!

  2. My memories go back to the small Hastings that used to be in the front parking lot of the Hastings on 45th. Every Friday after school my parents would round us kids up in the minivan and take us to rent VHS movies for the weekend. Remember those? Though the memories are vague they will forever be burned in my mind and a reminder of what was. I hate that my children will not get to experience these family goings to the extent that I did.

  3. Thank you for your article. I too miss Hastings. It was the only place left where one could go to rent videos and just shop at your leisure. When Blockbuster and Hollywood video went out of business I wondered how long it would take for Hastings to do the same. They will be missed.

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