PLANO — When Blockbuster first opened its doors in October of 1985, David Carrera was first in line. Well, one of the first — customer number 2027, to be exact. He still has his membership card from the original store in Medallion Center, where he would browse the mammoth selection of VHS and Betamax tapes as a teenager.
“Back then, of course,” said Carrera, 54, “renting videos was the entertainment of the day.”
Over the next three decades, Carrera went from being a Blockbuster customer to working in the stores — shelving new titles, doling out recommendations and enjoying free rentals — to becoming a corporate IT employee. At Blockbuster’s peak, he helped manage the computer operations for 6,000-plus stores out of the company’s McKinney office. He met his wife while working at the Blockbuster call center in Lake Highlands. “The level of camaraderie and family that you had with the Blockbuster family, it’s infectious,” said Carrera.
Dave Carrera celebrates the opening of a Blockbuster store in Tyler.(Courtesy of Dave Carrera)
Even as the advent of streaming services and video-on-demand spurred layoffs, downsizing and outsourcing, Carerra hung on. When Dish Network, which bought Blockbuster in a 2011 bankruptcy auction, announced in late 2013 that it would close all remaining company-owned stores, Carrera wasn’t quite ready for the end credits to roll.
Approximately 30 Blockbuster franchisees scattered around the country opted to stay open even after corporate support was cut off. But these franchisees faced an existential problem: They needed a centralized computer system to operate. Unless these remaining Blockbusters made the hefty investment to do a complete technological overhaul, they would have no way to do business.
Carrera, coming off years overseeing Blockbuster technology, saw a way to keep his tenure going a little longer — even though he knew he was on rented time.
“I’m literally taking parts out of old systems, almost like a junkyard,” Carrera said. “I’ve got a finite amount of equipment, and I’m shocked that it’s lasted this long.”(Lawrence Jenkins / Special Contributor)
“I reached out to the front of the remaining franchisees and said, ‘Hey, if you want to still keep going, I’ll support you,’” said Carrera. With no way to upgrade the already-antiquated software, in early 2014, he and a handful of ex-Blockbuster employees gathered at his Plano home to cobble together a system that Carrera could use to control the franchisees remotely. He became the owner-operator of the Carrera Company, exclusively catering to the remaining Blockbuster stores.
“Blockbuster, through all those years, never ever upgraded that system to a 21st-century computer system,” said Alan Payne, who was a Blockbuster franchisee owner until 2018 and wrote a book about Blockbuster’s rise and fall, published last year. “Dave, fortunately, had the expertise to patch things up as we went along.”
Since then, the number of Blockbuster stores has dwindled down to just one: A location in Bend, Ore., where rafts of nostalgia-seekers make pilgrimages to take photos in front of the ticket stub sign and peruse the racks of DVDs.
But the lone store couldn’t rent out a movie, redeem a coupon or run a credit card if it weren’t for Carrera running the circa-1990s servers in his home office, a role he considers “…….