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His aim: Knock champ's block off

A new player has emerged on the local video store front, this one hoping to challenge the industry giants with its own bigger-is-better strategy.

Orlando-based American Network Video recently opened its first Tampa Bay store in Tampa's Town 'N Country Plaza with about a quarter more videos than a typical Blockbuster Video outlet. The company promises to increase the initial stock of 16,000 videos to 30,000, plus 2,000 Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games.

American Network stores are coming in Clearwater and St. Petersburg in the near future.

Except for Blockbuster and a handful of independent video shops, the industry has seen better times in its short history. Locally, Blockbuster's top two competitors are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Many others, including a few that tried their own versions of the bigger-is-better strategy, went out of business.

American Network president Bob Zlatkiss, a 1975 St. Petersburg High School graduate, got into the video business after a string of 15 aimless jobs after graduating from college with a political science degree.

"I was selling dust mops at the time," Zlatkiss recalled. "One night I went to a video store, and the manager acted like he was doing people a favor by waiting on them. This is supposed to be a a service business."

In seven years, his original 800-title Orlando store grew into a chain of eight once Zlatkiss ladled out the come-ons in his winning formula.

Free fresh-cooked popcorn. Cheaper daily rentals that Blockbustert does not offer. And a minimum of six checkout clerks on duty per store, 12 on Friday nights.

_ MARK ALBRIGHT

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