Odd Obsession Movies is the video rental store you didn't know you needed

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Odd Obsession Movies has something to offer that your streaming services don't: community. They've got a better selection too, at least according to the volunteers who run the Wicker Park video rental store.

"There are things here that you did not know you would love," said Lee Kapraios, one of the volunteer staff members. "You can go to any shelf, and find something that will excite you."

Founded about 20 years ago - when Netflix delivered DVDs in mailboxes - Odd Obsession has gained renown for its eclectic collection.

Located on Milwaukee Avenue just north of The 606 trail, Odd Obsession is open daily from 2-10 p.m. Each shift is staffed by volunteers who average 600-700 hours of unpaid work per year.

"It's no small feat to get people to donate that many hours," said Josh Brown, who described himself as a sorta-kinda-manager.

More than 25,000 DVDs and Blu-ray discs are available for rent at Odd Obsession, along with hundreds of VHS movies for purchase. They've even got a small collection of Laser Discs.

"It's really easy to go into your 9-to-5, clock out, go home, turn on Netflix, and just let your mind melt," said Margaret Howe, another volunteer.

"But you can come here first, and have an awesome interaction and experience, and then go home and melt your brain with all our cool stuff."

The streaming revolution was won years ago, and video rental stores are nearly all gone. In the Chicago area, you'll only find a couple left: Odd Obsession in the city and Mokena Video is the south suburbs.

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Mokena Video is one of the last old fashioned video rental stores in Illinois, and its owner says he's not interesting in catching up with the present any time soon.

Odd Obsession itself nearly closed in 2019 after its owner saw massive financial losses. But the volunteer team held a successful fundraising campaign to keep their store alive and purchase the collection from the owner.

They raised around $16,000 between an Indiegogo campaign and a major fundraising event. An individual donor helped them reach their $25,000 goal to renew their lease and secure the archive.

"It proved that not only do we have passion for the collection and for what we're doing, but other people do too," Howe said.

Carrying the momentum of that campaign, Odd Obsession is now expanding its collection even further and planning to increase outreach through community events.
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