Store rents movies and carpet cleaners Lou Pleet also has sports cards WEST COUNTY -- Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon

December 10, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

For $45 at Lou Pleet's store in the West Friendship shoppin center, the serious collector can land an Art Monk bubble-gum card, issued when the Washington Redskin was a rookie.

And for the farmer who rushed to breakfast from the milking shed without removing his boots, Mr. Pleet has a carpet steamer to rent and all the chemicals to go with it.

If parents are late picking up the kids from the center's school bus stop, Mr. Pleet will see that they stay out of trouble.

But mostly, the farm workers, horse trainers and the growing contingent of upper-income homeowners look to Mr. Pleet for home entertainment, of the video variety.

Compleet Video offers patrons the usual video-store fare, tapes from G to X, videocassette recorders, video games and their hardware.

But behind the counter, there's a collection of baseball and football cards, ranging from the contemporary pocket-change variety to the much rarer cards that only the most rabid (or wealthy) collectors would buy.

On the back wall are Troll necklaces, a Ninja Turtle baseball glove and a plastic Troll tableware set.

Between comedy and horror is the Rug Doctor display, with a carpet cleaner, shampooer and a plethora of treatments, including odor remover, pet stain remover and flea killer.

"Because there's a lot of farms, a lot of cattle and a lot of race tracks around here, the Rug Doctor does very well," Mr. Pleet says.

"He's got a lot of things to pull people in," says Chuck Stillings, a county firefighter who stopped in yesterday to get a copy of "Aliens" and a Rodney Dangerfield comedy.

Mr. Stillings acknowledged that he could make photocopies and rent tapes or a carpet cleaner elsewhere, "but I'd have to go up to Route 40, and that's out of the way."

One of the store's most valuable commodities is Mr. Pleet himself, say some of his customers.

Lou makes the store," said Gabriele Hoffman, of Sykesville, who has been going to the place since it opened four years ago. "He's funny. He actually knows us by now. He's actually a nice guy and we like to give him business. I think I'd feel guilty if I rented a video anywhere else."

Working with people in a low-pressure environment is part of what Mr. Pleet says inspired him to get out of selling home improvements, "which I hate," to open the store.

Like anyone else who started a small business four years ago, times could have been better.

"We had a drastic drop because the recession hit, and cable came out here," he remembers. But since then, cable rates have gone up, competitors have closed and business has perked up, he said.

Mr. Pleet, 55, works 60 hours a week and has no employees, but he doesn't mind the hours, as long as there are people in the store.

He proudly shows off a battered polystyrene cup filled with pennies and covered with comments such as, "Imagine Lou in a G-string," and "Lou's a nerd."

"We have kids that go to private school around here, and they have to stay in the store until their parents pick them up. I'm like a baby-sitter here."

Greg Raabe, 23, stopped by the store yesterday in his U.S. Navy work blues to chat with Mr. Pleet about his likely deployment to Somalia to unload tanks.

"For any business, it's good to find the same people behind the counter, who know your name. He'll go by the rules, but he's your buddy, too," Mr. Raabe said.

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