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Earlier this week, the Cambridge video rental store Hollywood Express closed down for good. And what’s surprising about that probably isn’t that a video store is closing. It’s that in the age of Netflix, it made it this long. In its final hours, customers dig through shelves piled with DVDs and old VHS tapes, surrounded by monitors showing Rocky and Bullwinkle, as the man who managed to keep the doors open all these years looks on.

A line of people weighed down with armfuls of movies snakes towards the cash register. But they’re not renting— On a chalkboard behind the register are the words “everything must go. Thanks everyone for 29 great years.”

Josh Dreyfus of Boston lists off what he found.

“Gus Van Zandt’s ‘Last Days,’ Peter Jackson’s ‘Heavenly Creatures,’ and Robert Patton-Spruill’s ‘Squeeze,” which was shot here in Boston over 20 years ago.”

Boston was a different city 20 years ago. For one thing, there were a lot of video stores back then. “It’s really sad,” says Dreyfus. “Maybe one day people will realize that curating collections and taking time to browse things maybe is worth something.”

Hollywood Express was founded in 1986 by two musicians and a chiropractor. George Lewis is one of those founders. “Each of us felt we should have something to fall back on down the line.” he says.

“Personally, I’m a blues guitar player,” says Lewis. “And I just didn’t feel that I was necessarily going to be the greatest blues guitar player in the world, and I better have something.”

Since he was a kid, Lewis’ love of music was matched only by his love of movies. One had a profound impact: Fistful of Dollars.

“You know, I got into the movie, and I don’t even think I paid,” he says. “And man, I was just blown away by Ennio Morricone’s music. And the whole score for that just drove me mad. I thought this – I’ve never heard anything like it, never saw anything like it.”

All these years later, that spaghetti western sound can still be heard in the music he plays with his band, The De La Vegaz.

That love of movies also led to a successful business. It’s kinda hard to remember it now, but when all of a sudden you could choose any movie you wanted and bring it home, it was big deal. And Hollywood Express was packed.

“And it would be like walking into an event,” says Lewis. “We’d have 3 or 4 clerks ringing registers, with someone walking the floor answering questions. Everyone was talking about their movies. Couples were coming in as a date night. Families were coming in. It was just a great scene.”

When Blockbuster started taking over nationally, Lewis decided they needed to expand. He bought out his two partners and opened two more locations. Each of them specialized in hard-to-find genres.

“We were the anti-Blockbuster,” says Lewis. “We were appealing to the person that was going ‘I want something more than a new release. But the Netflix thing started coming in and by 2000 I was worried.”

Suddenly, you could get your movies without needing to go to a video store. Lewis only regrets that he didn’t invest early in Netflix, saying “I started doing some research on the company and going, ‘hmm, I wished I’d saved some money, I’d invest with these guys because these guys are going to rock the market.”

All around him, video stores started closing. And Lewis followed suit with his other Hollywood Express locations. But somehow, the original store near Porter Square held on.

“I’m a tenacious S.O.B.,” says Lewis. “And I’m just going to hang into – I just, I can’t quit. I think I’m never going to die. Now, I know I’m going to die, but I believe I’m not. So if you have that crazy thought in your head, think you’re going to go like, ‘ok, Netflix,take me down!’”

But Netflix, like death, is an unstoppable force.

“It simply came down to this.” says Lewis. “I haven’t made any money in over 4 years. And basically begged borrowed and stealed to keep the place open. And I had said to the last remaining employees that I had, I said ‘fellas, when this is done, I mean it’s going to be done when I can’t pay you.’”

That day came about a month and a half ago.

“You know, the worst part of it is, the whole mortality of the thing,” Lewis says. “You know, I’m not a young guy. I was in my 30s when I started this thing, and I’m not there any longer. You know, my partner Dave Maxwell just passed away a few months ago.”

When he started Hollywood Express with Maxwell and another partner, it was so he’d have something to fall back on if his music career didn’t pan out.

On Tuesday, the video store officially closed. And Lewis has turned his attention back to the playing the blues.

Over the last few weeks, some people have come into the store crying. One guy sent a case of wine. But most have been coming in to grab some movies and just say thank you.

“I started to realize how much the place meant to the people coming in here,” reflects Lewis. “I mean, it was more than coming in and spending a couple of bucks to get a movie. It was coming in and talking to the clerks, meeting other people from the area. There are people who are adults now that were coming in as kids. So they spent their whole life coming in here… But it made me look in the mirror and go, wow, it meant something.”