Local Business Spotlight: Action Video Service

Action Video Service storefront

Action Video Service relocated to Arapaho Village Shopping Center in 2011.

Editor’s note: The following is part of our series featuring local businesses. We believe everyone has a story to tell. If you know a business or neighbor who should be featured, email contact@heightspark.com.

Show of hands: How many of us have a functioning VCR? Not many, right? But many of us probably have several VHS tapes of unwatched cherished memories collecting dust.

Converting those moments that are on older formats — film, tape, photos, audio — to digital files requires time and devices that not everyone has access to. Fortunately, there’s a shop in our neighborhood that can do it for you.

Action Video Service, located in Arapaho Village Shopping Center (Tom Thumb, Tuesday Morning, Anytime Fitness, Painting with a Twist, etc.) is convenient and quick. Owner Lance Gray, a resident of Frisco who has worked in Richardson since 2001, recently took time to tell us about his business.

You grew up in Plano, right? Are you a Richardson resident?

I grew up in Plano and went K-12 in the Plano Independent School District.  After I graduated from college and married, I moved to Frisco where we’ve lived for the past 22 years.  I have been a “business resident” of Richardson since 2001; yep, I make that drive five to six times a week from Frisco to Richardson. In other words, a whole lot of my corporate taxes go right back into the awesome city of Richardson!

What do you like about Richardson? 

I love this neighborhood and the city. Our clients are super friendly and that makes any travel all worth it! My mom used to shop in Richardson all the time, so I frequented this very neighborhood back in the 1970s and ’80s, buying Atari video games at one of the local shops. In fact, my childhood dentist was in the Cottonwood area, so I’m very familiar with this part of Richardson. Honestly, the first time I looked at moving my business here, I became instantly nostalgic when I recognized the old shopping center around the corner was where I spent way too many quarters at the original Chuck E. Cheese and Pipe Organ Pizza.

How old is the company, and how long have you been at the shopping center?

Action Video Service in its original form was part of a larger video production company formed with multiple partners (me being one of the founders) back in 1999. Our focus was on high-level video production work for Fortune 500 companies while AVS functioned to make duplications of VHS tapes.

In 2011, my partners and I split to go our separate ways and I moved Action Video Service from a corporate office to the current retail location in the Arapaho Village Shopping Center known for the Tom Thumb, Arapaho Pharmacy and Joy’s Hallmark. It’s been a wonderful transition with significantly more walk-in traffic than I ever saw in my other locale.

In another interview, you said every day you “save a piece of history.” That’s got to feel good. Do you have an example of “saving history” that you’d like to share?

Our slogan for Action Video Service is that “We Help You Rescue Your Memories!” Our goal is to make YOU the hero of the story; we’re simply the friendly company that helps our clients move aging items stuck on old media and transfers them to DVDs, CDs, and/or digital files.

Honestly, we are preserving history for our clients every single day that we are open. Over the years, we’ve quite literally preserved millions of images for everyday moms and dads to companies and corporate billionaires.

I have lots of stories and have seen so many incredible events, but a few that come to mind are numerous transfers of 8mm and 16mm films of President John F. Kennedy’s visit, a client who had footage of Elvis Presley signing autographs from his car right outside his home in the 1950s, behind-the-scenes footage from a movie set with James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor, forensics slides from a major airline crash, Marilyn Monroe footage to just so much more.

It’s easy to be mesmerized by the high-profile media, but I get just as excited when someone has media that other companies have failed to preserve. I look at it as a challenge, so it’s wonderful to see happy tears when a customer is able to relive a memory that’s been resurrected by us.

What are the three most common requests/services you provide?

There’s a pretty nice split between videotapes taken with a camcorder (VHS, Beta, etc.) and film that was viewed with a projector. While we offer a lot of other services, I’d say the scanning of slides seems to be another thing that we get tens of thousands of each year. We do all the transfers on-site, so it’s hard to compete with our turnaround time.

Yes, you can choose to ship your media across the country and use other great transfer businesses, but we pride ourselves on a quick turn with high quality. The reality is that there just aren’t companies like us everywhere. So we make it a standard to provide great service in a friendly, fun and cool environment, especially with one-of-a-kind media that the average person doesn’t want to just leave with anyone.  Transparency, trust and integrity mean a lot to us, and that’s something we strive for along the way.

You have a skilled staff. Nigel was great to work with. Tell us a little about them and their experience.

I currently have three full-timers on my staff. Nigel is our resident British employee who most clients interact with when they come into the studio. He’s actually married to one of my other employees, so that’s how he originally came into the mix. He pretty much got to learn on the job about all sorts of media and is a great asset to the team.

My other employees both worked in media for many years and have a lot of production experience. I bounce between all our services, but we split duties into various sections. All of us handle general video transfers, but one team member works mostly on film and audio while the other handles slides, photos, restorations and montages. No two days or projects are the same, but I think that’s why we all love working here.

The collection of memorabilia and classic video games in your shop is impressive. I know it’s tough to choose, but which is your favorite?

Clients only see part of my collection in the lobby, but there’s actually a lot more behind the scenes. While I clearly have a wild collection of Star Wars items and an original Galaga arcade game, I think the 1959 Philco Predicta TV is my favorite. It seems that almost weekly someone comes in and asks to either buy it or at least take a photo of it. I even get the question of whether it’s really a TV because it looks incredibly retro and space age. I had it modified so it can play a DVD of vintage toy commercials; it’s the perfect media to play on this classic machine.

Pixy Stix with every order? Is that a favorite treat?

Every order has a treat in the bag. Once upon a time it was Rice Krispies Treats, then Lemonheads, and now I’ve settled on Pixy Stix. I loved them as a kid, and since we deal in so many things from a “retro” perspective, it seemed like the perfect treat to give away! I’ve always loved video games, toys and candy.

Ultimately, when I decided to open this business I realized that I get to make the rules, so why not have fun with my work. The evidence is everywhere, and most of the vintage items in the studio came directly from my childhood or my imagination.

At the end of the day, life is too short, so go ahead and have some Pixy Stix on us and become the hero of your family tree by preserving those long-lost memories for your family!

Neighbors Learn About Heights Park News, Native Plants at Summer Meeting

Native plants

Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Janet D. Smith shared information about native plants that she uses in her White Rock yard, including red yucca, four-nerve daisy, Turk’s cap, lantana and more. Download a PDF of her presentation.

Dozens of neighbors filled the activity center of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany on July 15 for our neighborhood meeting. The crowd of longtime residents, recent additions and first-time attendees came for updates about Heights Park and a presentation about native plants.

Heights Park Neighborhood Association President Erika Usie kicked off the meeting by welcoming those in attendance and introducing HPNA Vice President Jeff Davis.

Davis updated neighbors on the progress of adding more sign toppers to all street signs in Heights Park. The City of Richardson recently installed 12 new signs, and Davis said HPNA plans for the remaining 11 signs to be installed in the coming months. He also played a recap video from The Heights of Summer block party — a Heights Park tradition that will return in 2019.

Mallory Duncan, HPNA membership chair, shared plans for a new initiative — a Welcome Committee for new neighbors. With the assistance of the city, members of the committee will welcome new neighbors, provide them with information about HPNA, local businesses and city services, and hand out recycling bags. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Welcome Committee, email contact@heightspark.com.

Duncan also informed neighbors about changes to the Rotary Club flag program. Effective immediately, HPNA will no longer offer flag program registration with HPNA membership payment. Those interested in signing up for flag service may do so at the flag program website.

Usie also introduced the newest member of the HPNA board, Jeff Jackson. Jackson, an integral member of the Greenleaf Gang that coordinated and held this year’s block party, will serve as the new social chair.

Gardening with Native Plants

Guest speaker Janet D. Smith, Dallas County Master Gardener and Master Naturalist, gave an amazing talk about beautiful, drought-tolerant plants that thrive in our part of Texas and are magnets for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. (Download a PDF of her presentation.)

Smith, a resident of White Rock in Dallas, said she credits Carol Feldman of Heights Park for getting her interested in native plants and gardening that require less work than “alien plants” like St. Augustine and Bermuda grasses.

“A native plant is one that was growing here before 1800 with no help from humans,” Smith said. “They are an ancient solution for a modern problem — no fertilizer, no insecticides, no edging, mowing or raking.”

She mentioned that the overall goal isn’t necessarily to have all natives in your yard; instead, a good goal over a period of time is having maybe half native plants plus one in your yard.

“The whole key to gardening is the right plant in the right place,” she said. “Native plants survive in our extreme climate, create a sense of place and provide food for native insects and critters.”

Prize winners

Susan Cluiss and Jean Falsted won prizes at the neighborhood meeting on July 15. Cluiss earned a gift card to Communion Neighborhood Cooperative and Cafe, and Falsted received free flag service for a year.

July 2018 Yard of the Month: 536 Greenleaf Drive

July 2018 Yard of the Month: 536 Greenleaf Drive

July 2018 Yard of the Month: 536 Greenleaf Drive

The July 2018 Yard of the Month belongs to Gracie Evans at 536 Greenleaf Drive. Here is what she had to say about her yard:

Thank you neighbors for awarding me with Yard of the Month! Our neighborhood has so many great looking yards; it’s an honor to have won!

The redo of my yard has been a long time coming. I bought my house at the end of 2015 and decided the interior needed renovation first. It took about a year and a half to get everything on the inside done to my liking. Once I was satisfied with that, I knew the exterior was the next on the list to be done.

I contacted Keane Landscaping, which really deserves the credit for everything. I did not know exactly what I wanted except something low maintenance yet beautiful. Alex Courtney met with me many times to share ideas but the best thing they provided was a 3-D mock up of how everything would look. I highly recommend this for anyone who, like me, doesn’t understand or know landscaping very well.

A favorite feature of my new yard is the lights used to light up and cast shadows on my house at night. Thank you Heights Park Neighborhood Association for this great honor!

Gracie Evans, 536 Greenleaf Drive