2016 has been a year of goodbyes; to common sense, and Leonard Cohen. In Toronto we will have to say goodbye to Suspect Video, Honest Eds, and Mirvish Village. I never shopped at Honest Ed’s much, even with their excellent deals on ashtrays and bubble bath. I won’t miss the savings but I’m sad to see the entrance to my neighbourhood go dim.
Westbank Corp takes possession at the beginning of next year as our city slowly turns into a condo forest. I live in a third floor walk up with a panoramic view of the skyline. That view has been partially blocked by The College condos and the new Brookfield development east of Spadina Avenue. At College & Huron Streets, a turn of the century building that features walk out fire escapes, has been vacated and is slated for demolition sometime soon.
In the midst of Toronto’s reconstruction & booming real estate market – the loss of Suspect Video is keenly felt. I love that place. It was nice to just wander in alone and rent way too many movies. I also paid way too many late fees due to my life-long inability to return things on time (don’t look at me, Toronto Public Library!). When I thought about it, I really didn’t mind giving them my money, because they gave me films. I talked to the owner Louis last year about the new development and the future of Suspect Video . At the time of our interview I was still holding out hope that Louis & Co would change locations. I thought maybe they could keep going in the face of a changing skyline. I’ve been in and out since then but, not for maybe a month or two. I wandered in one day after an event nearby and was surprised at the state of things.
Everything was gone. The shelves were nearly striped and a printed sign spoke of a sale: all DVDs $5.00. I ran around looking for Criterions but most of them were gone. Even filmmakers like Hal Hartley, who I was pretty sure no one had heard of, had their collections striped. Everywhere I looked I saw some filmmaker’s worst film: Shutter Island, No Such Thing, Family Frenzy…. I made out with Angels in America, North by Northwest, Play it Again, Sam (best Woody Allen-not-Woody-Allen film) & The Life Aquatic on Criterion.
I only bought The Life Aquatic because it was in the Criterion Collection. At least I like the film. I came pretty close to purchasing an Eclipse Series Japanese horror collection I was not interested in.
It was exciting. Suspect had an amazing collection. Later, when I realized I probably would not be coming back, my DVD blitz felt sad. Like I’d ransacked a corpse. That’s a little dramatic but, video stores were the only place where I ever worshipped. To be clear – I paid A LOT in late fees – but didn’t the video store give me everything?
The video store experience will be sorely missed. Bay Street Video is still around but that’s no where close to my home and I really can’t afford the lazyness-cum-late-fees.
Suspect is not going away as an organization – they have high hopes for their future post store-front. Is that not a little consolation? Much like growing up, the disappearance of Suspect Video is disappointing, and annoyingly emblematic of our changing city. I always felt so comfortable there – my drunken chat about films with the counter (probably entirely one-sided), somehow always really having to pee when I went in to rent DVDs, and just getting excited about that obscure WWII documentary.
Nothing can replace a good video store. Here’s to Suspect.