One week before it celebrates its 60th anniversary, a popular Kitchener business is counting down to its final days.

Under one name or another, the retailer currently known as Steve’s Movieworld and Steve’s TV and Audio has been operating in Kitchener since 1957 – most recently out of the Frederick Street Mall.

Owner Randy Martin, who bought the business from founder Steve Mathieson in 1996, says the company has started the process of filing for bankruptcy.

“It was a very personal decision, a very difficult decision,” he said in an interview.

“For the most part, people are saddened – but they’re also thankful that we hung on for so long.”

Eric Tielmann, who has offered movie recommendations and other advice as a Steve’s employee for the past 16 years, has a similar outlook.

“We have the best customers,” she said.

“It’s going to be sad, not seeing them every day.”

Martin blames the closure on changes in the retail landscape. Steve’s was one of the last remaining stores offering movie rentals in Waterloo Region. On the hardware side, it’s been forced to compete with national chains that didn’t exist when he took the business over.

Geoff Malleck, a business lecturer at the University of Waterloo, says the same issue is confronting small retailers across the country, with many simply finding the rapidly increasing pace of change too much to handle.

“Shifts in consumer behaviour would normally be generational, (but) now they’re monthly,” he said.

Malleck also points to data collection as a former strength of local retailers – who knew their customers the moment they walked in the door – as something that bigger players have been able to take over through computerized databases.

“They could have head offices in Florida, and they still know all of your buying habits,” he said, adding that advances in artificial intelligence could soon get retailers to the point where they know what a customer will buy in advance, not just what they have bought in the past.

While the current operation may cease to exist, Martin says the Steve’s name will live on.

He plans to open a new business focused on custom home integration – systems which control everything from home theatre equipment to security systems to lighting and shades, and which have become more and more of a focus for the company in recent years.

Martin says some people will lose their jobs in the transition, although an exact number has yet to be determined.

With reporting by Marc Venema