A Perfect Partnership

The Business meets Criterion

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Since travel is inadvisable to impossible, I’ve recently come around in a big way to the idea of day-tripping and staycations.

Who am I trying to fool here? Anyone who knows me is well aware that exploring the nooks and crannies of my surroundings is like oxygen to me. Name a tiny town in Washington in my presence, and it’s likely I’ll say something like, “I ate a plate of enchiladas and then accidentally went to a pep rally there.” Or “I drove through there and watched a guy in a hot dog costume dance on a street corner during mariachi lunch hour.” Or “I stayed a night in a tiny cabin there and went night fishing with some locals.”

These are all true stories that have nothing to do with the movies, but I’ll get there, I swear.

During the summer, fall and possibly winter of our COVID-19 discontent, I am committed to taking safe, masked and socially distanced daytrips to places near and slightly less near. None of these places will be new to me, but they’re all spots I love, and of them, Anacortes is at the top of the list.

Most people consider the lure of Anacortes to be its scenic wonders. Situated on Fidalgo Island, it is truly a lovely waterfront locale and is also the ferry gateway to the San Juan Islands. As for me, I love the Anacortes’ mixed roots as a scrappy port town as well as artist enclave the effects of which remain evident in its fiercely independent nature.

No place harnesses that fierceness or sense of independence quite like the Business. Anacortes’ music scene is long and storied and the store that once housed Knw-Yr-Own Records and employed Karl Blau and Phil Elverum has been at the heart of it since 1978. For the past several years, Nick Rennis has been the Business’ owner, and he takes its stewardship very seriously, offering only a carefully culled selection of indie releases by labels that treat their artists fairly and their distributors well.

Which brings us to the part about the movies.

When Rennis took over the Business, it had a small used video section that was almost an afterthought. As he retooled and refined things, he jettisoned that department, but offering movies that fit within the store’s ethos of doing everything with intention and working directly with distributors was always in the back of his mind. In theory, there were many routes in the film world he could’ve taken to his desired destination, but in reality, all roads led to the Criterion Collection.

Every film buff (this one included) who knows anything about anything worships at the altar of the Criterion Collection, which offers both well-known and more obscure films, but gives each selection the gold-star treatment, with painstaking restoration, behind-the-scenes bonus info, insightful commentary and more. Because of the time and effort that goes into each Criterion release, as carefully as Rennis sources his music, the folks at Criterion show the same care when choosing the movies that comprise their collection. And in the same way that Rennis has an ear for good music but isn’t a snob about it, Criterion films appeal to a wide range of filmgoers. The Business and Criterion is a match made in movie heaven. 

But how does a tiny store in Anacortes get hooked up with a prestigious distributor like the Criterion Collection?

“The partnership with Criterion has been a long time coming,” Rennis says. “Since we avoid working with large distributors, we wanted to partner directly, which proved to be more of an involved process than we had anticipated so it took a long time to arrange. I think it’s unusual for stores to go about sourcing things as direct as we like to. We just want there to be fewer pieces of the pie. When you buy a Criterion [film] from us, you are supporting the Business and Criterion. That’s it.”

As for the specific films you might find if you find yourself at the Business, that’s still a work in progress. Rennis is seeking input from established and potential customers alike (head to the Business’ Facebook page to weigh in) in order to tailor his inventory to our entertainment needs. But with a catalog nearly 1,500 movies deep that features such films as The Seven Samurai, Do the Right Thing, Pan’s Labyrinth, Dr. Strangelove, Grey Gardens, The Blob, Ghost World, Gimme Shelter, The 400 Blows, Mulholland Drive, Nosferatu, The Royal Tenenbaums, A Hard Day’s Night, La dolce vita, A Room With a View, The Red Balloon, Godzilla, Harold and Maude, Time Bandits, and many more, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that there’s something for everyone from cinephile to casual viewer alike. And if you can’t make your way to Anacortes but have a hankering for a Criterion release for yourself or to gift someone else, I’m about one million thousand percent certain you can contact Rennis at the Business and he will find a way to get your movie to you—after all, he does it with records all the time. His fiercely independent spirit is coupled with a strong drive to get as much of the art he loves into the hands of as many people as possible—ideals identical to those of the Criterion Collection.

“In a time when so many folks might normally disregard physical media in any way as an inconvenience, we appreciate even more the great lengths a company like Criterion goes toward making a special experience for the collector,” Rennis says. “I’ve always been a huge Criterion fan and feel really lucky that I get to share that with our community.”

For more information about the Business, including store hours, shipping information and COVID-19 policies, find them at

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