The Last Video Store on Earth: Wild and Woolly Video is Legend

Local Business Profile: Wild & Woolly Video has survived the video store apocalypse to become the last rental refuge in the region for fans of horror, sci-fi and cult movie cinema.

Video store Armageddon has already happened, and the total destruction of what was once a thriving industry is now a part of cinema history. There are only a handful of embattled outposts left in operation, fighting off the flesh-eating zombies that came in the form of Netflix, Redbox and instant downloads. The irony of the final conflict is that when the dust settled, it wasn’t Blockbuster or any of the giant corporate chain stores that were left standing. It was a handful of ragtag Mom & Pop video stores that managed to outlast the majors.

Wild & Woolly Video at 1021 Bardstown Road in the Highlands has seen trends come and go over the last 17 years in business; VHS, Laserdiscs, DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray, but in the end it wasn’t any one format that kept the Wild & Woolly ark afloat, but a focus on catering to the interests of its specific customer base and the building of a library of underground cinema unmatched anywhere in this part of country.

While the access we have to the hundreds of thousands films made since the early 1900’s has improved dramatically since the beginning of the Mom & Pop video store era and the home rental boom of the early to mid-1980s, the way we access movies today has left many film fans cold and nostalgic for the days when they spent hours transfixed by the lurid covers in the Horror Section of Mom & Pop video stores. Every trip to the video store was an adventure of discovery, and a place where they could compare experiences with other horror movie fans and get recommendations from the movie obsessed staff. Wild & Woolly Video has kept that experience alive in Louisville.

Last week, I spoke with Wild & Woolly Video creator and owner, Todd Brashear, about the store’s humble beginnings, its horror celebrity fans and its place in the Louisville cultural landscape.

“When we first opened at the original location a few blocks down the street,” says Brashear, “we had 300 VHS to rent, mostly from Something Weird Video, Tai Seng and Luminous Film and Video Works.”

“It was mostly kung fu movies that weren’t easily available to see in the United States at the time,” he continues. “Jackie Chan movies, Jet Li movies and, of course, our most popular and most rented title of all time, ‘The Five Deadly Venoms’ (1978). We also had a lot of obscure and classic horror films as well as art films and documentaries. At first, it was all the stuff you probably wouldn’t find at other video stores, but eventually we started carrying all the Hollywood new releases too due to customer demand.”

Brashear was born in Youngstown, Ohio, but his parents moved to J-town while he was still a toddler. He graduated from Ballard High School in 1987 and earned an Associates Degree in Audio Technology and a B.A. in General Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. His original goal was to find work in the music industry and he completed an internship in Nashville in a CD mastering studio.

“My goal was to have a career in re-mastering vintage recordings,” says Brashear, “but I quickly learned that there was no money to be made doing that, and most of the guys doing it were just doing it as a hobby on the side.”

While playing in a hardcore punk rock band, Solution Unknown, Brashear got a break in the indie music scene that wouldn’t be fully appreciated until a number of years later. His Solution Unknown bandmate and friend, Dave Pajo, asked Brashear to play bass in his pet project band, Slint, and together with guitarist, Brian McMahan, and drummer, Britt Walford, they recorded “Spiderland” in 1991. Even though the band broke up shortly after the release of the “Spiderland” record, the record went on to sell over 50,000 copies and become one of the most influential indie rock records of the 1990s.

It was partially with funds generated by the “Spiderland” record that Brashear opened the first Wild & Woolly Video location. “At first I considered opening a record store, but I thought there were already too many record stores in town, and I always wished a movie rental place like Wild & Woolly existed,” relates Brashear. “This was the video store I always wanted to go to, but never found.”

Seventeen years later, Wild & Woolly is home to the biggest selection of rental DVDs (and some obscure VHS) in the region, specializing in horror, B-movie and other underground titles. If you’re looking for the latest releases from Shout Factory/Scream Factory, Shriek Show or Code Red DVD, Wild & Woolly Video is really your only local option. Everything is categorized in highly specialized sections and the staff’s knowledge of arcane cinema borders on encyclopedic.

Now that Wild & Woolly has survived the home video apocalypse, I wondered what Brashear could see in his crystal ball regarding the future of the physical rental format. How does it feel to have outlasted Blockbuster Video?

“Actually, I miss them,” relates Brashear. “Lots of people would go to Blockbuster that had no idea we even existed, and they would ask for movies every day that Blockbuster didn’t have, and Blockbuster would send them to us. Other than that, I can’t say we’ve really felt any effect from their closing.”

“I don’t see an end to physical/disc format anytime soon,” he says. “I think it has a much longer lifespan coming than the prognosticators have predicted. The studios still make a lot of money from the physical format. The percentage of Netflix’s instant streaming business is relatively small compared to their DVD mail order rental business. A lot of people don’t hear that in the press, but it’s true.”

“There are still a lot of folks out there that enjoy a physical product, whether it be vinyl or disc. They want something to hold onto. I see this coming from both the youth and the older crowd.” Brashear thinks the under 25 crowd and the over 40 crowd are the biggest consumers of physical media, with the older crowd who grew up with VHS and vinyl still appreciating things like packaging and liner notes and the younger crowd who were born into a world of streaming and illegal downloads discovering that there’s something special about owning a piece of something.

Wild & Woolly Video has gained a following not just among local cult movie fans, but also within the horror, sci-fi and cult movie business. Many cult celebrities have made appearances and signed autographs for movie fans at the store. These include director George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”), special effects master Ray Harryhausen (“Jason and the Argonauts”), cult filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman (“The Toxic Avenger”), comedian Rudy Ray Moore (“Dolemite”), actor Ken Foree (“Dawn of the Dead”), actress Caroline Munro (“Dracula A.D. 1972”) and martial arts legend Jim Kelly (“Enter the Dragon,” “Black Belt Jones”). The store has also produced music concerts with cult legends including Roky Erickson, Blowfly and “Saturday Night Live” veteran, Fred Armisen.

Halloween is always a peak season at Wild & Woolly. “Things always get a little crazier around Halloween, and we always see a huge spike in horror movie rentals,” says Brashear, who loves decorating the store for the spooky season.

Recently, Brashear’s career has come full circle as April 15th will see the release of a re-mastered boxed set of Slint’sSpiderland” through Touch and Go Records. The set will include a vinyl re-master of the original record, a vinyl of outtakes and demos, both records on CD, a 104 page book with over 100 never-before-seen photos and a 90 minute documentary called “Slint: Breadcrumb Trail” by director, Lance Bangs, that chronicles the making of the “Spiderland” record.

“I’m kind of what you would call the producer of the boxed set,” says Brashear. “It was something that was in the works for a long time. Lance Bangs worked on the documentary for around seven years. I managed to get everybody together and sort of pushed the whole thing forward. You wouldn’t believe the amount of work that goes into something like this.” Check out for more information or to order a copy before they sell out. They are hand numbered and limited to 3,138 copies.

Slint is planning a couple of overseas tour dates in conjunction with the release of the boxed set, but no local dates are currently planned and Brashear won’t be going with them. “I’ve got enough on my plate right here in town with this place and two kids,” says Brashear.

If you’ve been looking for a horror film for a long time, and can’t seem to find it anywhere, check out Wild & Woolly Video online at or give them a call at 502-473-0969. If there’s a crazy movie you remember seeing when you were a kid, but can’t recall the title or all of the details about it, there’s a very good chance the staff at Wild & Woolly will know exactly what you’re looking for and will be able to hook you up with a copy to rent or purchase.

The Video Store Apocalypse is over, and the good guys won. Raise your glasses, Louisville.

The Phantom of The Ville

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