Hamilton video store owner holds a contest to find new owner for the business

The owner of Select Video says the business is doing fine. He just wants to change careers. Contest entrants need to pay $175 and submit a one-minute video saying why they want to own the video store.

'There is no catch,' says store owner about his contest

Select Video owner Mohammad Dirani wants his business to go to a good home. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Want to own a video store? There's one up for grabs in Hamilton. And to get it, you just have to win the contest.

"There is no catch,"  says Mohammad Dirani, owner of Select Video, for people entering the contest to find a new owner of the long-time business. 

We're looking for somebody who obviously is passionate about the business, and who likes the movie industry.- Mohammad Dirani

It's not a trick to offload a business because it's out of sync with a digital present. 

Dirani says the Queen Street business is doing fine and it has nothing to do with new technology or the declining need for video stores over the years.

The bills are paid up, and it's in the black, he said.

He's just embarking on a new career as a physiotherapist, which is "a passion of mine," he said. So he wants to hand off Select Video to someone who will appreciate it.

"I'll still be a customer," says Mohammad Dirani. "I can't see why I wouldn't be." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"We're looking for somebody who obviously is passionate about the business, and who likes the movie industry," he said. "We're looking for someone who's looking to put in the work."

Free to the winner doesn't mean Dirani won't profit from the contest.

It costs $175 to enter, with a minimum of 1,500 entrants for the contest to move forward. That totals about $260,000, which Dirani says is roughly what he feels the business is worth.

In the end, he said, even after he gives the winner $20,000 to help with the transition, it will be about the same as the price he would put on it if he sold it on the market.

As for Select Video, it's been in a Hamilton staple more than 30 years. Dirani's family has owned it for 15. To enter, would-be owners must submit a one-minute video and an essay of no more than 200 words

This contest ad invites people to enter to take over Select Video.

Dirani will consider up to 2,500 submissions. He'll examine a short list of 20 people.

He also says he'll have a meet and greet for customers and staff, and training sessions for the new owner. He puts the inventory at worth more than $100,000.

Even though iTunes, Netflix and downloading have taken some steam out of the video rental business, Dirani says Select Video is still viable.

There is no catch- Mohammad Dirani

The store's rentals are cheaper than iTunes, he said. And people still like the tactile experience of looking at the boxes, browsing the selection in person and bringing home a high-quality DVD.

More than half of the customers are regulars, he said. They like talking to the store's two full-time staff members about film picks. His customers are of all ages too, he said. Tuesday night, for example, a couple in their early twenties came in to rent Casablanca.

"I'll still be a customer," Dirani said. "I can't see why I wouldn't be."

The video retail store has been in decline for years, thanks to those streaming and other online alternatives. The big dominant chairs, Rogers and Blockbuster, closed their doors several years ago, leaving mostly independents like Select Video.

Peter Kilburn runs the Ontario company Movie Experts, which provides support services for many of those outlets. 

Kilburn told CBC news in August there are now between 250 to 300 independent video stores left in Canada, mostly in small towns. That's a drop from an estimated 600 in 2012. Beyond that, he said there are an additional 500 convenience stores, general stores and gas stations that sell movies. 

Giving a business away by contest isn't a new idea either. The owner of the Red Brick Café in Guelph tried it earlier this year. She cancelled the contest when there were only 70 entries.

"We hope we've sparked people's imaginations with this contest," organizers said.

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC