Great mystery is just good business

By Kevin Wilson

Two. Six.
That’s me on Saturday, 26 years old. This might not be the time to spout off about a midlife crisis, but it’s pretty daunting to realize that a full quarter-century is about to take place, and I have yet to A) write the Great American Novel, B) cure cancer or C) make some other ground-breaking discovery.
At least that was the case before this column. Somebody needs to answer the question that has been on my mind ever since I first stepped into Portales.
How did tanning beds and movie rental facilities become synonymous with Portales?
I was talking over the weekend with a Portales native who now lives in Houston, and he told me that it was just something that you grew up with, and you never questioned it. He’s also been a lifelong Cowboys fan, so it’s not a perfect theory.
His rationale wasn’t good enough for me, so I placed phone calls to the people in charge of these local renteries (it’s kind of like an eatery, except it rents things). I wanted to delve deep into the topic, get the answers.
My ground-breaking discovery actually breaks down into two words: time and space. A tanning bed takes up less space than some renteries reserve for Christian Slater movies, and produces much greater profits — nobody ever paid $25 a month to watch Jimmy Hollywood, for instance.
“We are filling time and we have the space,” said Peggy Goolsby, who owns Landall’s Box Office. “As a general rule, most businesses don’t like to be open that late.”
Offering an option to the tanner who works a 9-to-5 makes business sense, plus it helps fill slow periods during the day and the year. Traditionally, the most popular movies to rent are summer blockbusters that come out for rental in the winter, so spring is a perfect time for tanners to fill the void in business.
It’s a trend that is catching on across the country. Worth Magazine has reported that more than 2,000 video rental facilities also offer tanning across the country.
It’s also a trend that Portales was on long ago. Sharon Cabledue said that tanning beds were already in place when she bought Video World from Rhonda East more than 13 years ago.
“I don’t know how she got started, other than she decided to do it,” Cabledue said. “We have distributors who call all the time for different things.”
It seems that a tanning bed distributor guessed correctly many, many years ago. Both Goolsby and Cabledue told me that they make a good profit with tanning, but the movies still create the most revenue.
Not all combination businesses are successful, though. The building we now call the Portales Recreation Center was the home of a short-lived movie rental/pizza delivery place.
And lest we not forget Papa John’s, which is promoting classic movies on DVD with the delivery of a pizza. I expect that promotion to fail when people realize that the genre of classic movies now includes Weekend at Bernie’s.
I don’t expect my Pulitzer or Nobel Prize to arrive by Saturday, but I would like to think I have now spent my first 25 years wisely.
I might take care of my discovery for the next quarter-century soon. I mean, somebody has to find out why 24-hour convenience stores have locks on their doors.

Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 32, or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com