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Videos with perks



"Stardust. Something dusty. The opposite of stardom." Brett Bennett is explaining the reason behind the name of Stardust Video & Coffee, the store he and Katherine Howe opened in March on Winter Park Road, just north of Corrine. Of course, he doesn't mean "dusty" literally -- just the idea of things forgotten, brushed aside, the opposite of, oh, the gleaming new-release wall at chain video stores.

"Actually," says Bennett, switching from the metaphorical, "it's from the Woody Allen movie." That's "Stardust Memories," a dreamlike, odd-shaped gem Allen made in 1980 in reaction to his shooting stardom.

You can rent "Stardust Memories" at Bennett and Howe's store, as well as other obscure, independent, classic and foreign films. The stock's not limited to stuff that makes you pause and puzzle, but, says Bennett, "Most of these movies have been abandoned" -- the kind thrown away by chain stores if they're not rented enough. "We won't sell anything to get rid of it," he says, except maybe multiple copies of a title. "Or an action film."

"I like action films," Howe says with a half-smile. Then she admits, "No one rents them from where they are. The action films are right next to the bathroom."

More than just a retail space, Stardust anchors a wedge of the local arts scene. There's an open-mike night at 8 p.m. Wednesdays in the coffeehouse space strewn with sofas and bistro tables. The open mike attracts people like poet Cyril Cruzada, who on a recent night seemed pleased enough with the event but noted that, with customers of all kinds coming in and out, he had to keep things tame. "You can't rant here," he sighed.

The coffeehouse also features local artwork and what Bennett calls "reader-friendly lamps" -- although not many people loll around and take advantage of the well-chosen magazine selection. "We don't really have readers. I anticipated more readers," says Bennett, who has been known to voice exasperated things like, "An event is open a book. Read it. Period."

Tuesdays at 6 p.m. a chess club meets. "It's so informal. It's whoever wanders in," says David White, the club's organizer. They used to gather at Barnes and Noble, but "that was almost like playing at Wal-Mart."

In the future Stardust might add events -- maybe jazz or scaled-down theater. "I just don't want to be stereotypical by having a little acoustic guitar and a lovely voice to follow," says Bennett.

So don't expect to find a literate folksinger pouring out his baffled heart. Do expect a gaggle of arts-minded people happy that the earnest guy with the guitar is banished, happy also to linger at the little counter drinking coffee. You'll know who they are. They'll probably be there half the time you stop in.

Although the owners seem to pull off their enterprise with aplomb, "It's hard," admits Bennett, "because we never worked at a video store before."

"That didn't seem odd," notes Howe wryly, "until after the fact."

With Stardust open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., they're basically working all the time. They even emptied out much of their house to decorate the store. What's left at home? "We still have our dressers," offers Howe. "And our dogs."

Call 623-3393 for more information.

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