Videoflicks! Videoflicks! Videoflicks!
It’s wrong to open a story with the same word written three times over, unless that word is Videoflicks — one of Toronto’s most iconic and beloved independent businesses.
You may also think it’s wrong to write a story about a video rental store — in the age of Netflix. Chill.
When Videoflicks closed its Avenue Road doors last October, after 37 years of growing its loyal customer-base, people were upset. And now people are overjoyed, because Videoflicks will re-open.
I’m included among those people on both counts.
Back when I lived at Avenue and Lawrence, at least once a week I’d find myself at Videoflicks. Often times I’d go without the intention of renting a movie.
It was a social event. A community affair. The place to be on a Saturday night — even if you were in your pajamas. (Yes, even in that snazzy neighbourhood.)
Kamir— Joe and Steve’s dog (the owners … of the store … not of the dog … as their late-dog was their son … not a possession) — would often be somewhere near the entrance to greet guests.
That’s what you felt like there. A guest. A house guest. Not a customer.
Joe and Steve always made you feel very welcome in their video store home. And they, of course, welcomed dogs.
There would always be fresh popcorn waiting for you downstairs. Every visit I’d tell myself no popcorn today. Then I’d fill the little brown paper bag half-way. (Or I’d tell myself the full bag would be half-full were I to have allowed the popcorn to settle properly.)
There’d also be pieces of popcorn trailed throughout the upstairs and downstairs of the store. So, Fozzie Bear, my considerate dog, would often vacuum Joe and Steve’s carpets. He loves popcorn. Cleaning it up that is. He’s a dog, maneuvering a vacuum cleaner is difficult for him, so he found other methods to … vacuum.
And while I often went there without the intention of renting any movies, they moved me to rent things I never thought I wanted to see. They also found movies for me I never thought I’d find.
So, after what would often be a solid 30 minutes to an hour at Videoflicks, I’d go back home, with the movie I never intended to rent in-hand.
Joe (Carlino) and Steve (Cohen) bought Videoflicks from Beverly and Michael Kavanagh, who first opened the place in 1981.
When it re-opens (most likely next week, but that remains unconfirmed) Videoflicks will be under new ownership yet again — but with the same comprehensive film collection for which it’s known (along with the addition of music and video games).
Still, it will never be its film collection for which I will remember it. And I think that’s why this 1981 video rental business is still in demand in this on-demand era of 2018.
I will remember Videoflicks for its sense of community and inclusion, its homeyness, fun-spirited and family-like atmosphere, and its popcorn. Of course.
And I will remember Steve. Yes because we’re Facebook friends — but really because he has always remembered, to this day, the things I like to watch (but won’t always admit to watching).