AUBURN – Ron Levasseur held onto “Going out of Business” signs for weeks before he made up his mind.

He kept doing the math – rent, electricity, labor, the cost of DVDs to fill his shelves – and the numbers never worked. He waited until after dark on Monday to erect the signs in his windows.

“I don’t say, ‘I’m closing,'” said Levasseur, who ran Taylor Brook Video in Auburn for 20 years. “I say, ‘I’m retiring.’ It sounds better.”

The decision still torments him, though.

“I tossed and turned over it,” Levasseur said. He had loyal customers and employees. “That was the hard, hard part. I’m not worried about myself.”

For a decade, the business has struggled.

Rental kiosks appeared in grocery stores. Mail order and online rental companies gained ground. And the economy soured.

“I have had kids come in here with disks of movies downloaded from the Internet,” Levasseur said. “And the movie is still in theaters. How can I compete with that?”

He tried selling more movies but made little money. Then he started hearing folks talk about their lost jobs.

People who once rented three or four movies a weekend have cut their business to one or two. Others have stopped coming in.

“Everybody feels this economy,” he said.

He plans to close his doors on the 23rd or 24th.

The departure will leave few video stores in the area, and most of those are part of huge chains: Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and its subsidiary, Hollywood Video.

In 2007, the three retailers accounted for 41 percent of the rental market, according to numbers collected by the Entertainment Merchant Association, an Encino, Calif.-based trade group that examines the sale and rental of movies and video games.

Small shops like Levasseur’s are being squeezed between the big chains and the growing online and kiosk businesses, said Sean Bersell, a spokesman for the association. When the economy fell, the remaining small shops were hurt worst of all, he said.

In 2007, independent chains and shops accounted for 35 percent of the market. Today, there are no reliable numbers, Bersell said.

“We’ve seen an up-tick in store closings,” he said. “We don’t really know how bad it is.”

It is little comfort to Gloria Burnham, who has worked for Levasseur for six years.

“We know our customers really well,” she said, choking up at the thought of locking them out and finding work elsewhere. “I won’t see them anymore.”

Burnham plans on finding another part-time job. Levasseur said he’ll fall back on investments he made when business was better. He and his brother own an auto parts business. He also owns several apartments.

Like Burnham, Levasseur will miss the customers.

However, before he closes, he hopes to see them one last time. He sent postcards to every member, offering refunds for their outstanding gift certificates and passes.

He also hopes to say goodbye.

“I have watched kids grow up and have kids of their own,” he said. “I’ll miss each one.”

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