Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yikes, Mondo Kim's Closed

One of the iconic stores of the East Village, Mondo Kim's, closed about a week ago.

If you live anywhere near the village, then you know this store as much for its snarky employees as its amazingly eclectic video and music collection. I should know; I was one of those sultans of snark. In fact, for a brief few months, I was manager of the entire Kim's Video chain. (True!) So it's sad for me to see the crown jewel of the empire come crashing down.

Shortly after graduating college, I applied for a job at one of Mr. Kim's stores. He liked me so much that he made me manager of all of them. I wasn't ready. In fact, I have no idea what he saw in me at the time. I was completely green, and worse, I was emotionally wrecked from both the pressures of NYU and a really horrendous roommate situation. All I was looking for was a low-pressure job until I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up fucking up that job completely, of course, not to mention Mr. Kim's van, which I was supposed to drive around to all the stores collecting money. One day, I sideswiped the wall on the way back in to Mr. Kim's parking garage, ripping apart the entire left side of the van.

When I quit, Mr. Kim was really disappointed. I have to say I liked the guy. Everybody in New York has heard of Kim's Video but not many people know anything about the guy behind it. (A lot of people still think it's a woman named Kim.) Mr. Kim just loved film, like I did, and he wanted to be a part of the industry in any way he could. He was pretty young too - about my age now when I worked there. And he was not a mean boss, like some of his workers say. He didn't make me pay for the van. His general manager wanted him to, but he didn't.

I liked working there. I met some great people in the stores, to the point that I wished I could have just worked in one of them rather than spending my days running around to each one repeatedly collecting money and making sure everything was categorized correctly. That was basically my job. But I was a bad manager, I wanted everybody to be friends with me. Sometimes I would just hang out for like 45 minutes talking to people. What the hell, I was young. Today I wouldn't care, I'd rather see a video filed correctly than anything else.

Mr. Kim still has at least one store, ironically a new one on 1st Avenue between 7th and 8th, which is literally about a block over from where his first store was on Avenue A. But his empire is clearly crumbling. He no longer rents videos at all. And his flagship is gone.

Funnily enough, his entire rental collection has been sold to a town in Sicily.

Blame the internet.


  1. Holy Moses. I went to Kim's almost every time I visited NYC. They never once failed me. They had every movie in stock that I went looking for. Every movie AND every album. I spent silly money in that store buying music and movies. I loved it. I bought Serge Gainsbourg LPs, oddball Guy Maddin DVDs and great classic porn all on the same receipt.
    Stupid internet, it's a blessing and a curse. That sure is a bummer.

  2. Wow, I didn't expect many people outside the city would have heard of it. The funny thing is I always thought of Mondo Kim's as "the new store", because it opened while I was working for Kim's and everybody who worked there called it that. But it became an institution down there. He had three other stores already at the time, but I think they are now all gone except that one on 1st Ave. (I don't think that store carries music.)

    Mr. Kim was a good guy but his GM, whose name was Mr. Cho, was kind of a jerk. I actually didn't get a lot of stuff when I worked there because the discount was only something like 10%. I once bought like 10 laserdiscs from one of the individual store managers at cost, which because they were used was like $2 each, and Mr. Cho had a shit fit. Told me I was taking advantage of the store and had to set a "better example" for the other managers and whatnot. I basically just never bought anything there again, because 10% off Kim's regular prices wasn't very good - their prices were kind of ridiculous.

    Speaking of Mr. Cho, everybody who worked in the office was named Kim, Cho, or Park. It was funny, like that scene in Goodfellas when Karen gets introduced around and everybody is named Peter or Paul. "And this is Mrs. Park... and this is Ms. Park. And here is Miss Park." The entire office was Korean and I guess those are the three most common Korean names.

  3. Ah, yes, the prices were indeed a bit steep. However, I've always been apt to induldge well, overindulge) myself on my trips to NYC. Last time it was Anna Sui and kidrobot. Previously I dropped all my cash at Kims. Still to this day I've never been in a video store with a better selection for sale.
    Yes, one of my best friends is Korean. Her name is Kim. The most famous Korean directors are Kim Ki Duk and Park Chan Wook.


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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