Heads Together has enjoyed a 30-year extended run in Squirrel Hill -- but no longer.
In its history, Heads Together has changed both its Squirrel Hill location -- bouncing from storefront to storefront along Murray Avenue -- and its identity. The establishment sold everything from water pipes to waterbeds before renting videos for the last decade. But come Feb. 28, the Squirrel Hill landmark will be gone for good.
"I'm going to sell everything and change my life," says owner Dee Sias, who bought Heads Together in 2002. She now plans to pursue her passions for writing and cooking once the store closes. "Why sit here and eke out a living?"
Since 2007, Heads Together has been splitting floor space and rent with Jerry's Records and 720 Records at 2136 Murray Ave. Although Sias says the rent is significantly less than it was at the previous location across the street, she's still having trouble making ends meet.
In many ways, it's a surprise that Heads Together lasted this long. Online movie rental businesses like Netflix have caused video stores across the country to close their doors, including Squirrel Hill's Blockbuster and West Coast Video, which both closed in 2006.
"We kicked Blockbuster's ass, we kicked West Coast's ass," says Sias.
Netflix and Comcast OnDemand hurt her business, Sias acknowledges, but she credits Heads Together's longevity to its unique selection.
"Who's got Straight to Hell, Suture, Stranger Than Paradise?" Sias asks, flipping through movies in the store's "Cult" section. "These are great movies."
In addition to cult films, Heads Together boasts sections for foreign titles as well as gay and lesbian films. The most popular movies over the years, she says, have been the "weirder" titles, like those found in the store's "Drive-In" section.
"I'm sad to see her go, but I think she made the right move," says Jerry Weber, who owns Jerry's Records. "You don't run a business to break even."
Weber plans to reclaim the floor space currently occupied by Heads Together, using it as storage for records he wants to sell wholesale overseas. But although his record store could use the extra room, he says it's unfortunate that the Internet has put independent video-rental stores out of business.
"It's a shame," he says. "But it's the way things are going."
Longtime Squirrel Hill-resident Eric Marchbein says the neighborhood isn't just losing a video store: It's losing a piece of history. "It's very sad," he says. "[Heads Together] was a different kind of culture."
Marchbein remembers Heads Together's early years, when it merged with the Squirrel Hill bookstore Bookworm. "It was a popular place," he says.
Aside from browsing the book selection, Marchbein says he regularly purchased cigarette papers from Heads Together in the 1970s. To this day, he still owns the cigarette-paper case he purchased from the store roughly 30 years ago.
Until Heads Together closes on Feb. 28, Sias says the store will be open every day, except Monday, from noon-7 p.m., selling most VHS tapes for $5 and DVDs for $7. What Sias fails to sell, she plans to donate to local organizations -- with the exception of a few favorites she intends to keep for herself.
"Now the movies can go to people's homes," says Sias, who estimates that she's sold roughly 30 percent of the store's merchandise in the past couple of weeks. "That makes me feel pretty good."