Nonprofit We Luv Video Establishes New Hub on North Loop

In the mood for Luv

The We Luv Video team: (l-r) Ryan Teel, Conrad Bejarano, and Macy Cotton (photo by John Anderson)

It takes a village to raise a video store. That is the lesson to be learned from Sam Kimelman, board secretary of We Luv Video, as he leads preparations for the May 13 soft opening of the nonprofit's new hub at 100 E. North Loop, which will house the entire I Luv Video collection. Kimelman originally became involved with the project when his company was hired to do the branding for We Luv Video. That experience inspired him to reach out and ask to contribute "through the Kickstarter and indefinitely," he says; those contributions now include conversations with media when co-founders Macy Cotton and Ryan Teel are out of town.

Spend enough time crowdfunding different projects and you'll eventually help finance a campaign that lives in a permanent state of incompletion. For the We Luv Video team, this soft opening is their opportunity to give the Austin film community a glimpse into their progress. "We want everyone to know their money's going to this stuff and you can see the progress yourself and stay excited," Kimelman explains. The event will even include a "ceremonial rental," where former I Luv Video owner Conrad Bejarano will check out the first film from the new library.

For now, that will be the only rental offered to members. One of the biggest challenges for We Luv Video remains cataloging the 130,000 discs and tapes that make up the original I Luv Video collection. According to Kimelman, the team was unable to extract any meaningful information from the previous database, meaning the group has had to start the data collection process from scratch. "So far, we've done 60 boxes," Kimelman notes. "That's around 6,000 videos." But thanks to a dedicated group of 329 volunteers – many of whom are active on the video store's Discord channel – the work slowly marches on.

And if the soft opening is proof of progress, it is also proof of potential. Since the smaller space is still expected to house the full I Luv Video collection, the team has emphasized flexibility in the design and layout of their new space. "One smart decision was that all the shelves are gonna be on casters, so they can be kind of pushed aside to create more space," Kimelman says. "Basically, every square footage that can be used, will be." This is part of the original vision for the store, which expanded the idea of video rentals to include trivia nights and public screenings.

And even in its nascent stage, We Luv Video is forming close ties with other businesses that have responded to their mission. The soft opening will include drinks donated by Goodnight Loving Vodka and Lazarus Brewing, and Kimelman suggests that many other organizations have reached out to discuss future partnerships. "There are a lot of companies in Austin that want to be associated with the original idea of the weird, cool city," he adds. As We Luv Video inches closer to a real opening, so too will Austin continue to tap into the potential of this weird, cool video store.

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We Luv Video, I Luv Video, Sam Kimelman, Macy Cotton, Ryan Teel, Conrad Bejarano

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