During a trip to Alaska in 2014, I saw several things you won't find in many other U.S. states: moose, grizzlies, glaciers and Blockbuster stores.
The video-rental retail business was alive and well in Alaska, which was home to almost all of the nation's remaining Blockbusters.
But how is this possible in the age of streaming Netflix and Redbox kiosks?
Especially when Dish Network, which bought Blockbuster at a bankruptcy auction in 2011, announced in November 2013 that it was closing the remaining 300 company-owned stores?
It seems any franchise owners or licensees who pay to use Blockbuster's name and logo can live on, becoming what are often called "zombie stores." At least 12 such stores across the U.S. remained in 2014.
Nine of those stores were owned by Texas-based Border Entertainment, and the company's president, Alan Payne, said his stores were still profitable.
"We've managed to make it work," he told NPR in 2013. "We've just been totally focused on what the stores could do that our competition could not do."
Brick-and-mortar stores aren't dead
What was the key to Payne's success in recent years? Setting low prices, maintaining a large selection of movies and knowing his customers.
Although the downfall of video-rental stores has been blamed on digital distribution, Payne says there are still consumers who frequent his stores.
These are people who don’t know how to rent movies online, who don't want to pay $3 or $4 for a rental, or who lack an Internet connection capable of streaming a movie.
In Payne's stores, older movies — which often can’t be found in Redbox kiosks — rent for 49 cents a day or 99 cents a week.
In Alaska, Internet options with the bandwidth needed to stream full movies can be expensive. Payne says his stores in America’s last frontier — which offer up to 15,000 titles — get tens of thousands of customers a week.
"We recognize our strengths, we acknowledge our weaknesses, and we play to our strengths," Payne told the Anchorage Daily News. "And because of that we have an extremely large customer base in Alaska."
But it's not just the good selection and low prices that keep people coming back.
"Part of why people come, obviously, is for the community experience of seeing friends and seeing our employees in the stores that obviously know movies," Payne said.
Down to the last one
However in spite of low prices and a wide selection of movies, Payne's last two remaining stores announced they're shutting down for good this month and liquidating all of its videos and merchandise through August.
Thus leaving only one remaining Blockbuster in the entire U.S. located in Bend, Oregon.
"How exciting,” the Bend store’s general manager Sandi Harding told the Associated Press. "It might end up being a little chaotic for a couple of weeks.”
If you feel an urge to take a trip down memory lane and head to Oregon, you're still in luck. “We have no plans on closing anytime soon,” Harding said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in June 2014.