Video Connection, a small store with a long history, celebrates 40 years with the winner of the jackpot | News


In Kimbark Plaza, on the front corner of Harold’s Chicken #14, is a small lottery store with a big history. Video Connection, 1208 E. 53rd St., which recently caught the eye for handing out an $850,000 winning lottery ticket, has been a cornerstone of Hyde Park for almost 40 years.

Charles Newsome opened Video Connection in 1982 at the corner of 53rd and Kenwood Ave., where the Soul Shack is now located. It was an idea born out of necessity, the mother of invention, in which Newsome strongly believes.

After being laid off from a tech company in Gary, Indiana, he started a one-man business videotaping weddings and bar mitzvahs. “I thought photographers talk about (how) a picture is worth a thousand words,” Newsome said. “A videotape speaks and contains an image. So it must be worth 2,000.”

Newsome expanded into selling and configuring VCRs, which brought him to customers on the South Side. Driving through Hyde Park he decided this was the place to open up shop. “Hyde Park has such penetration into your soul,” Newsome said. “He’s got this sci-fi thing. When you walk into Hyde Park you can almost feel electric. It sucks you in and you feel surrounded.

In just five years on the 53rd, the movie rental business already had such a large customer base that customers had to drive around the side streets in search of parking. After reaching an agreement with Bill Gersteinformer owner of Mr. G’s Finer Foods, now Hyde Park Produce, Video Connection moved to Kimbark Plaza in the space that is now Chase Bank.

The walls were lined with shelves containing hundreds of tapes and DVDs. They also sold lottery tickets and even had a yogurt shop, which was so popular that customers came from the suburbs for a cone. To manage the meters, Video Connection hired local teenagers, mostly from Kenwood Academy and Whitney Young High School. When we left work, we recommended another classmate to take our place. Through slowdowns in video activity and pandemic shutdowns, Newsome employees have stuck with him. His longest serving employee is his business partner and nephew, Charles Price.

The two Charles met at a family reunion that they were both filming. It turned out that Price was also working as a videographer, recording graduations and weddings in California. Newsome invited him to come work at the Video Connection, an offer Price was apparently reluctant to accept. It took a few weeks and two visits before Price warmed to the idea. “After 37 years, he never said he was going to stay,” Newsome said, but he has no doubts about his nephew’s loyalty. “He was the other half to make it all work.”

Over the years, Price and Lee have seen many celebrities pass by the store. Former President Barack Obama used to stop to browse the Foreign Movies Aisle when he lived in Kenwood. Newsome remembers seeing Muhammad Ali performing magic tricks for customers. Everyone crowded around the counter as Ali lifted himself off the ground, seemingly hovering in the air. Louis Farrakhan was another frequent customer. Newsome recalls Farrakhan’s son always forgetting to flip movies. “He would stop, pay and say, ‘My son. “”

In the early 2000s, when major video franchises like Blockbuster started moving into Hyde Park, Newsome feared their competitors would shut down Video Connection. Instead, business picked up as customers turned out in droves to support the local business. “One thing is you can trust Hyde Park. If you serve them, they will take care of you. One thing Newsome knows is how to serve its customers.

Video Connection hosted an Oscar party for its most loyal customers and handed out gold trophies from a camera engraved with each customer’s name. They also used to host an annual black-tie birthday event, for which they sent out paper invitations and rented Hollywood lights that could be seen spinning in the sky from Lakeshore Drive.

When the movie rental business began to fade 15 years ago, Video Connection downsized to the space it is in today and began to focus exclusively on lottery tickets. Newsome and Price began looking for tenants to occupy the old space and found major banks knocking on their door. Magic Johnson personally called Newsome to negotiate for Washington Mutual Bank, he said, but Chase Bank ultimately won. Today, Newsome and Price lease several lots in Kimbark Plaza.

Over the decades, Newsome noticed that Hyde Park was changing under the wave of gentrification, but he said he trusted Hyde Park’s strength of character. Newsome says chain stores that descend from Lincoln Park and Lakeview will not survive Hyde Park if they don’t integrate into the community. “In New Rome, you have to be Roman. You cannot come from the north side and be on the north side. You have to come to Hyde Park and be Hyde Park.

The pandemic has been tough — for Newsome, seeing customers is key — but Video Connection regulars kept showing up. Masked patrons entered one at a time and waited outside, socially distanced, until it was their turn.

With such a strong customer base, Video Connection consistently ranks in the top 10 or 20 stores for lottery sales in Illinois. Considering their sales, Newsome said, “We should have more winners, but we have a lot of small winners.” After more than 30 years of selling lottery tickets, Video Connection finally had its first jackpot winner in April: an $850,000 Lucky Day Lotto ticket. According to the Illinois Lottery, the store will receive an $8,500 bonus for distributing the winning ticket.

Charles Newsome (left) and Charles Price, owners of Video Connection in downtown Hyde Park, after selling an $850,000 winning Lucky Day Lotto ticket.

“We plan to use the bonus to catch up on unpaid bills. We also plan to do something special for our dedicated employees who have remained loyal during difficult times,” Newsome said in a statement. Illinois Lottery Press release.

Newsome has no intention of retiring. “If I go to a place where I can’t do anything, it’s useless. I just want to see things happen and see people motivated and helping people if I can take it to another level,” Newsome said.


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