Back to the future: Me, Maplewood, movie places and you

Solomon Gustavo/Review Home Video on Stillwater Avenue in Maplewood, now closed, served as the pop culture portal for at least one strict family.

Hey, it’s me, the new Review editor. I lived in Maplewood from early middle school until my sophomore year in high school. 

Now I’m back, combing through personal and regional history while learning about the right now and where things are going from here. 

I’ve been driving up and down thoroughfares like White Bear Avenue and the more bike-friendly side streets, which I went up and down as I transitioned into my teen years.  

My brother and I happened to both be moving into new places last summer. While we were helping each other hauling beds and taking burrito breaks we couldn’t help but begin reminiscing about where we lived as a family. 

The Maplewood stop is a favorite. 

We lived on Rice Street and Stillwater Avenue. There was a video store a block away called Home Video. They had brand-new DVDs and walls lined with VHS tapes. I rented my first PG-13 and R-rated films from this corner video store. 

I grew up strictly Lutheran. Watching a PG-13 movie before being 13 was like texting God, “You up? I wanna go to hell.”

So the video store, and the teenage boy at the counter who couldn’t have cared less, was my portal into popular culture. 

The sign for Home Video is still there, but the store is now shuttered. It’s disappointing, but, being a rental movie place, predictable. 

There also was Plaza Theater on Larpenteur Avenue, just off White Bear, and I must say, I thought it might be gone too. Sure enough though, it’s still going. 

Back in the early 2000s, back when there were still $2 theaters that held screenings of movies that had come out a month or so before, my siblings pretty much lived at the Plaza on hot days. 

It was biking distance from our house, cheap, air-conditioned and the movies — it pretty much served as the couch closest to the fan.

Then, for my last year or so in Maplewood, my older cousins and friends started getting their driver’s licences. I would venture into Oakdale to go to Marcus Theaters in the backseat of some kid’s hand-me-down Jeep. Merging and accelerating on that stretch of Highway 36, headed east from Maplewood, was one of my corridors to freedom, a release point into young adulthood.

I went back there for the first time in years to watch “Lady Bird” earlier this year. Walking up to the tall glass wall and glass doors, inside the high-ceilinged lobby, I was flushed. I realized that just about every time I’d walked through those doors in my life, when I was 13 or 15, I’d be approaching a nice girl with whom I was way too nervous to watch “Little Nicky.” 

I want to know what things and places — you know, not just movie spots — stir feelings of family and growing up, of community and the future, for anyone in Maplewood, Lake Elmo, Oakdale and North St. Paul. 

Please contact me. Either way, I’ll be around. 


–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at or 651-748-7815.

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