Editor’s note: The following is part of our series featuring local businesses. We believe everyone has a story to tell. If you know a business or neighbor who should be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show of hands: How many of us have a functioning VCR? Not many, right? But many of us probably have several VHS tapes of unwatched cherished memories collecting dust.
Converting those moments that are on older formats — film, tape, photos, audio — to digital files requires time and devices that not everyone has access to. Fortunately, there’s a shop in our neighborhood that can do it for you.
Action Video Service, located in Arapaho Village Shopping Center (Tom Thumb, Tuesday Morning, Anytime Fitness, Painting with a Twist, etc.) is convenient and quick. Owner Lance Gray, a resident of Frisco who has worked in Richardson since 2001, recently took time to tell us about his business.
You grew up in Plano, right? Are you a Richardson resident?
I grew up in Plano and went K-12 in the Plano Independent School District. After I graduated from college and married, I moved to Frisco where we’ve lived for the past 22 years. I have been a “business resident” of Richardson since 2001; yep, I make that drive five to six times a week from Frisco to Richardson. In other words, a whole lot of my corporate taxes go right back into the awesome city of Richardson!
What do you like about Richardson?
I love this neighborhood and the city. Our clients are super friendly and that makes any travel all worth it! My mom used to shop in Richardson all the time, so I frequented this very neighborhood back in the 1970s and ’80s, buying Atari video games at one of the local shops. In fact, my childhood dentist was in the Cottonwood area, so I’m very familiar with this part of Richardson. Honestly, the first time I looked at moving my business here, I became instantly nostalgic when I recognized the old shopping center around the corner was where I spent way too many quarters at the original Chuck E. Cheese and Pipe Organ Pizza.
How old is the company, and how long have you been at the shopping center?
Action Video Service in its original form was part of a larger video production company formed with multiple partners (me being one of the founders) back in 1999. Our focus was on high-level video production work for Fortune 500 companies while AVS functioned to make duplications of VHS tapes.
In 2011, my partners and I split to go our separate ways and I moved Action Video Service from a corporate office to the current retail location in the Arapaho Village Shopping Center known for the Tom Thumb, Arapaho Pharmacy and Joy’s Hallmark. It’s been a wonderful transition with significantly more walk-in traffic than I ever saw in my other locale.
In another interview, you said every day you “save a piece of history.” That’s got to feel good. Do you have an example of “saving history” that you’d like to share?
Our slogan for Action Video Service is that “We Help You Rescue Your Memories!” Our goal is to make YOU the hero of the story; we’re simply the friendly company that helps our clients move aging items stuck on old media and transfers them to DVDs, CDs, and/or digital files.
Honestly, we are preserving history for our clients every single day that we are open. Over the years, we’ve quite literally preserved millions of images for everyday moms and dads to companies and corporate billionaires.
I have lots of stories and have seen so many incredible events, but a few that come to mind are numerous transfers of 8mm and 16mm films of President John F. Kennedy’s visit, a client who had footage of Elvis Presley signing autographs from his car right outside his home in the 1950s, behind-the-scenes footage from a movie set with James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor, forensics slides from a major airline crash, Marilyn Monroe footage to just so much more.
It’s easy to be mesmerized by the high-profile media, but I get just as excited when someone has media that other companies have failed to preserve. I look at it as a challenge, so it’s wonderful to see happy tears when a customer is able to relive a memory that’s been resurrected by us.
What are the three most common requests/services you provide?
There’s a pretty nice split between videotapes taken with a camcorder (VHS, Beta, etc.) and film that was viewed with a projector. While we offer a lot of other services, I’d say the scanning of slides seems to be another thing that we get tens of thousands of each year. We do all the transfers on-site, so it’s hard to compete with our turnaround time.
Yes, you can choose to ship your media across the country and use other great transfer businesses, but we pride ourselves on a quick turn with high quality. The reality is that there just aren’t companies like us everywhere. So we make it a standard to provide great service in a friendly, fun and cool environment, especially with one-of-a-kind media that the average person doesn’t want to just leave with anyone. Transparency, trust and integrity mean a lot to us, and that’s something we strive for along the way.
You have a skilled staff. Nigel was great to work with. Tell us a little about them and their experience.
I currently have three full-timers on my staff. Nigel is our resident British employee who most clients interact with when they come into the studio. He’s actually married to one of my other employees, so that’s how he originally came into the mix. He pretty much got to learn on the job about all sorts of media and is a great asset to the team.
My other employees both worked in media for many years and have a lot of production experience. I bounce between all our services, but we split duties into various sections. All of us handle general video transfers, but one team member works mostly on film and audio while the other handles slides, photos, restorations and montages. No two days or projects are the same, but I think that’s why we all love working here.
The collection of memorabilia and classic video games in your shop is impressive. I know it’s tough to choose, but which is your favorite?
Clients only see part of my collection in the lobby, but there’s actually a lot more behind the scenes. While I clearly have a wild collection of Star Wars items and an original Galaga arcade game, I think the 1959 Philco Predicta TV is my favorite. It seems that almost weekly someone comes in and asks to either buy it or at least take a photo of it. I even get the question of whether it’s really a TV because it looks incredibly retro and space age. I had it modified so it can play a DVD of vintage toy commercials; it’s the perfect media to play on this classic machine.
Pixy Stix with every order? Is that a favorite treat?
Every order has a treat in the bag. Once upon a time it was Rice Krispies Treats, then Lemonheads, and now I’ve settled on Pixy Stix. I loved them as a kid, and since we deal in so many things from a “retro” perspective, it seemed like the perfect treat to give away! I’ve always loved video games, toys and candy.
Ultimately, when I decided to open this business I realized that I get to make the rules, so why not have fun with my work. The evidence is everywhere, and most of the vintage items in the studio came directly from my childhood or my imagination.
At the end of the day, life is too short, so go ahead and have some Pixy Stix on us and become the hero of your family tree by preserving those long-lost memories for your family!