One guy’s recollections of the birth of a highly suspect endeaver.
Suspect was begun, as most things are, as an idea thrown out in conversation. Now, I can’t quite remember the precise seed of the idea, but I do remember that over the course of several drunken (and even sober !) get togethers. Me and my friends Todd and Merrill kicked around ideas of what we’d like to see in a video shop. The funny thing is that I was never a big video rental customer. The extent of my renting adventures were renting a couple of films (horrible b-films like Shriek of the Mutilated or Mutant Hunt, of course) along with a Vhs machine (!?) from 7-11. I do remember that the few video rental shops that I did step into were a decidedly boring lot. Pretty well the same cookie-cutter design. You know what I mean: metal, grid shelves, carpets that wouldn’t have been out of place in a faux pub, the latest hollywood schnoozefest playing on the tv(s) hanging from the ceiling. BORING.
Both myself and Merrill had ‘completed’ film school and had both written feature scripts but of course raising the dough for such an iffy endeaver is pretty dificult-it was much easier to raise money to open a video store.
And we did.
After making the shelves, buying cool vintage showcases and aquiring books, toys, magazines and a whopping 450 (!) videos the opening day was decided for us. Decided because, believe it or not, the legendary GUNNAR (LEATHERFACE from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MSSACRE) HANSON was available for an exclusive signing on August 3rd, 1991. So… August 3rd it was!
Trying to make the joint look fuller than it was was the real art in the early days and the opening day/signing was a modest but really fun success and got us on our way.
From then on all our efforts were in getting as much cool stuff as possible and we spent as much as as we could on just that – advertising be damned – it was too expensive anyway. To our astonishment people started talking about us! Recommending us! People started to use us as a meeting place! Then something really lucky happened. Horror scribe extrordinaire GEMMA FILES was an early member/friend of the store and was writing for a Toronto publication-Eye Weekly and somehow persuaded the powers that be to run a full page profile on us! AMAZING!
More press followed as well as being voted multiple years as Best Video Store and/or Best Indie Video Store in both Eye Weekly and NOW Weekly. Each win and even getting the Runner Up wins were great for us. Our memberships were growing by leaps and bounds and we were making heaploads of friends too.
Suspect even hosted some great signings too:
Jorge Buttgereitt He of Nekromantik, and Nekromantik 2 fame was in town for Schrammand was a gentleman for the signing.
Peter Jackson (yes, THAT Peter Jackson) was super nice during his signing. He’d made the low budget classic Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles and was in town for Braindead.
We’ve also hosted signings with: Dario Argento (twice), Lloyd Kaufman, Mary Woronov, John Cryer, Karen Black, Misty Mundae…
As we grew we decided we needed an office and our friends at The Record Peddler were moving from their Yonge Street location to a spankin’ brand new location on Queen street west that was a bit too big for them. When they offered us a space for little more than an office would cost us.. we said YES to a second location at 619 Queen Street West.
…more to come..