Sunday, July 25, 2021

Farewell, Reckless


7/22/21 Reckless Video in the Maple Leaf neighborhood

Greg and I have been renting movies from Reckless Video since the days of VHS more than 30 years ago. One night during those early years, the building where Reckless was a tenant burned to the ground (insurance arson was rumored). Not too long afterwards, Reckless rose like a phoenix across the street, and we continued to rent movies there throughout the DVD and BluRay eras.

A couple of years ago, owner Mike Kelley, who opened the store when he was 31, let his loyal customers know that he was operating in the red. Over the years, it had become increasingly difficult to compete with streaming services, and most video stores had closed years ago. Unless he had a turnaround, his shop would be going the way of the Beta format. Saddened and alarmed by this news, I sketched the shop, Seattle’s last family-owned video rental store. At the time, he had signs up that said, “Burn Netflix” and “The Internet is not a neighborhood.”

We didn’t think Reckless would make it through the pandemic, but it somehow managed to keep its doors open – until now. Mike announced in May that the store would be closing for good. In his farewell message to customers on Facebook, he wrote:

Reckless is where I met my wonderful wife Kathy and we started a home and a family for our boy Joe. The video industry held unprecedented excitement for the first 20 years. The annual conventions in Vegas (aka world’s best party) are where Kathy and I met stars like Leonard Nimoy, Mary Tyler Moore, Martin Sheen, John Voight, Dennis Miller, Jeff Goldblum, Ice T, Nina Hartley, and the Fourth Ghostbuster!

In addition to Reckless, Mike’s family owns the Maple Leaf Ace Hardware store next door. He donates all the ice cream bars for the neighborhood Ice Cream Social every summer and contributes in many other ways. He’s the kind of business owner who helps a neighborhood feel like a community.

Last month Reckless rented its last video (we still had a couple of punches left on our pass, so we sadly made our last rentals). It’s now open till the end of July to sell off its inventory of discs.

I decided to make one more sketch of Reckless before it closed, this time to give to Mike. That same day, we walked over to Reckless together and perused the shelves for the last time. We bought a stack of movies we haven’t seen, but mostly I wanted them as mementoes of Reckless.

Shown below are the sketch from 2019 and the first one I made in 2014.

Technical notes: I’ve sketched the building at various times of day and from different angles, and I always encounter the same issue: The front of the store is always deeply shaded by the overhang. This time, the whole building was backlit. Do I try to draw the details and local color? Or just make it dark and imply the Coke machine and posters? I chose the latter.

Typically I feel almost no pressure of any kind when I open my sketchbook to a blank page. But as soon as I decided that I would make this one as a gift, I suddenly felt enormous pressure that it had to be “right.” I took 90 minutes to make this – three times as much time and care as I would normally devote to a single sketch! Thank goodness I don’t have to sell my work for a living!




  1. I am sure he will treasure this sketch. It is sad to hear that they had to close. I don't know of any video rental places that lasted here...although there are probably a few in the city. Things change and sadly not alway for the good. I'm glad he still has a business next door.

    1. I guess it was inevitable, but I'm happy that the store stayed open as long as it did.


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