Great American is making headlines!

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KGW’s Rod Hill stopped by on his tour of local Milwaukie businesses to sample our premium frozen custard ice cream.


4. Milwaukie: Milwaukie is a strange suburb in that it’s actually basically part of Portland, but it has suburban things, like a video rental store that serves amazing custard, a park on an island in the river and a super cute, old downtown that is, gasp, accessible by MAX. Someone should tell Vancouver how cool this is!

Great American Video and Espresso: Kent McCarty has kept afloat by staying one step ahead of the competition. In the ‘90s, that meant adding a coffee and ice cream shop to his video rental operation. Now, he’s pushing a frozen custard that’s hard to find anywhere else in Oregon, a relic of his youth from the Midwest. The cool treat is compact, but melts away easily with each lick. We tried the mint and Oreo, which left a lingering sweetness on our tongue long after we’d left. A must try.

“Who cares about the last Blockbuster?” Great American Video and Espresso co-owner Kent McCarty said. “We’ve been here for ages. And we’re in it for the long haul.”

The store celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.

Great American has weathered the rise of Blockbuster as the chain dominated the industry, its dethroning and disruption at the hands of streaming services and the 2008 economic downturn that buried so many of its peers.

But McCarty and his crew are not alone. At least three other Portland-area video rental shops are flourishing in an age where movie fans can browse hundreds of thousands of titles with the click of a button.

These are their stories.

McCarty has always rolled with the punches.

Back when Blockbuster was buying up mom-and-pop shops left and right, the owner of Great American Video decided to start serving coffee to make some extra cash.

”If I made $40 in a night, I was happy,” he said.

That was 20 years ago.

And as Starbucks began its southward creep, McCarty took what he thought was the next logical step: He installed a drive-up window.

Now coffee, ice cream and frozen custard — the authentic, Midwestern stuff, McCarty stresses — make up the majority of his business as he maintains the video store as a labor of love.

He runs the Great American rental operation much as he has for two decades.

McCarty stocks 12,000 titles, ranging from 1940s classics starring James Stewart and Humphrey Bogart to the latest “Star Wars” and Marvel tentpoles.