Every now and then I ask myself how the hell did I get here? Why did I get here? I never wanted this. I wanted a “normal” life like all my friends. I mean, I knew I loved movies. Always wanted to have them in my life. But How did the videostore life become what it was?
Look, going back to my childhood I was always a nerd but more importantly a horror movie nerd. Even in our Grade 7 class pic I had to rock the Nightmare On Elm Street 4 shirt. I thought it was cool. Needless to say I was the only one in the class that did that day. Yet Freddy still kicks ass and all bad 80s fashions have left so maybe I was right all along.
In the mid to late 80s the mom and pop shop videostores were killing it here in our city as most other cites as well. Keep in mind this was before Blocklbuster and Roger’s Video invaded the market and killed all the local shops. No, this was a glorious time when your parents bought their first VCR, realized their life was busy but had kids, and gave us the magic ticket. The holy grail of escape. A Videostore membership card!
The moment was made. The key to the kingdom was given. A memebership card to your neighbourhood shop and a working VCR which you know cost your parents the price of a good used car at the time. No doubt! So off we were running as an 80s child going to “Bob’s Video Store” or in my case a close shop named “McVIDEO”. Sadly due to legal reasons they were short lived because of the name. I can give you one guess who sued them and won. The point of the story is they were the kind of shop that let 10-12 year old me go in and simply rent whatever my eyes saw. There was no “Hey, you are too young to rent that.” attitude. No, it was more of a “go and enjoy, kid”.
Not only was I enjoying binging the shit out of dozens of titles a week in my basement but more importantly using the hi-tech skills of copying movies to build my collection with the always powerful VCR to VCR taping method. We could squueze 3 sometimes 4 movies on one blank tape to say we had it all for repeat viewing. Sure the picture quality was not the best but at that age we did not care. It was about having it all, having every title we craved for. To study these films, to become experts in our nerd lives on the craft and the more we watched the more skilled we were as a video cassette warrior. I know, it seems stupid now but back then it your were a nerd, an outcast, an outsider, this was your training.
This brings me to my point how it was always in my blood. A part of my young life that I tend to forget about until my parents remind me. Now most kids on the weekends would go play with friends (I did not have many), or maybe go on a date with a school girl crush (not in the cards for me either), or at the very least spend quality time with the family (also not in the cards in my life at the time). No, for me it was going to another local videostore, called VIDEOSPOT here in Edmonton, and I would be that annoying 12 year old kid who simply just wanted to spend time in the movies. The dirty smell of cardboard VHS and BETA covers looking at me all afternoon long on those Saturdays. As movies would be returned the staff there would allow me to place them back on the shelves. I really thought at the time I was being a big help. And maybe to a certain degree I was but spending 3-4 hours there I can not believe how nice the staff of this shop was to me in hindsight. It’s almost embarrassing to think about. Seriously, what kind of nerd did I have to be to get excited to see new returns dropping through the slot just so I could save the the staff the effort of leaving the desk and putting them back on the shelf?
It’s funny, it was an all female staff. I’m guessing they were 18-20 years old at the most but they never once got annoyed with me. Never once told me to leave. Never once told me to be a normal kid and go play with my friends. No, looking back I think they knew I was nerd and a loner and probably took pity on me. Infact if I helped them out enough they even made sure I got fed but getting me McDonald’s and would always let me take home a free rental or two. How they put up with me and my million movie nerd questions I never understood looking back but they did and god bless them for it. The staff at VIDEO SPOT from 1988-1990 made me who I was as the years would pass. They allowed me to soak in the videostore goodness and put the bug in my head. One day I think I wanna do this.
They say timing is important in life. and thank god mine worked out to be that annoying afternoon “employee” at VIDEOSPOT because soon enough Block Buster arrived in our city and buried VIDEOSPOT and many others like. Not only would they have ever had the patience to deal with a kid like me they would have never let me rent the sweet titles I grew to love at such a young age. No, there has never been a love looking back at Blockbuster in my videostore eyes. They were an evil corporation that had no soul and I loved that they were crushed by a bigger evil corporation with no soul like Netflix. But wait, I’m going somewhere with this story.
This brings me to 2005. Opening The Lobby DVD Shop and trying to remember the love I had for strange little indie video stores and recreating it. Knowing I could not compete with the big boys (at the time Blockbuster and Roger’s were still around) I had to think back to my childhood and remember what I loved about a videostore. And as a kid it was feeling included and allowed to explore. Now obviously lots of the material in my shop is truly for 18+ but when it comes to most of the horror/ scifi/ cult cinema the greatest way of watching them would through the eyes of a child or young teen. I would never deny the classics to a young viewer (as long as I had the parents’ permission) because falling in love with movies begins at childhood. Even in 2019 if I can make a young one’s journey to the now mythical land of the VIDEOSTORE a magical experience I will. There was and will always be something about staring at those creepy or cool covers at that age that makes you say “I need to see this so bad” that will never be an old school thing. No, at a young age where life is still open and honest and not cynical and depressed the magic of film, good or bad, still will give a young mind excitement. And to see that for me is another reason why even though it does not pay the bills it keeps me opening the doors another day and worrying about money and my own personal misery for another time.
I make no bones. Kids freak me out. Being below a daycare center just hammers home the fact that I am better off being an irresponsible uncle to my nephews and niece than a father. And that’s cool. We know who we are. But every now and then, thanks to super cool movie parents, I get to meet young ones in my shop that think it’s a great place. Not bad considering most of them were born after Blockbuster closed their doors (thank god they will never know the stale horror enviroment of that place) and even more cool because they are way more intelligent than I ever was at their age. The above pics are of Bram, Regan, and Sam, Just three examples of young ones that give me hope for the future of videostore culture. I have posted about them before on instagram and facebook but I never put two and two together until tonight. I never thought about my childhood helping out the lovely staff of VIDEOSPOT until now. I actually forgot all about it, I mean, it was 31 years ago and I have had a drink or two since then. But as I drink my late night tea and type away I am actually smilingly thinking about these young ones. I can only hope when they are older and I’m probably long gone from this world they might have a flashback to their youth and remember…”There was this strange store with movies underground and the guy that ran it with long hair was creepy yet cool and had the most wonderful movies on his shelves”. And maybe one of these smart kids will make good in life and get the same bug I did and think…”I wanna be the first person to bring back the Videostore vibe in the year 2039.” All wishful thinking I know. But like I said to open once it’s in the blood it truly never leaves…
Remember in the end the videostore never leaves you as long as you always remember the videostore. Thanks for listening to my late ramblings again my friends. I love you all…