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There is a time in every movie watcher’s life when they need to expand their horizons, try something new. Well, I did just that this week when I ventured out of my local area and headed west, to the neighborhood known as “˜The Junction”, where I visited with the great people at Big Daddy’s DVD Shop.


Just north of High Park at 3044 Dundas Street West is where you will find Big Daddy’s DVD Shop, a welcoming and laid back video store owned by J.R. Grassby. The store is a bright, comfortable place with comfy chairs and rocking music. The films are displayed along every wall and the entire place emanates a love for film that only an independent video store can. Grassby opened the store in 2005 while working in film and television. Grassby, who worked in video stores   in Vancouver, missed the sense of community. “When you work in a video store you know everybody,” he smiles. With some extra money in his pocket he decided to open his own store. After a serendipitous series of events Big Daddy’s found its home in “The Junction”. Why such a big name for an independent shop? “I used to drive a ’57 Dodge Royal all around town and my girlfriend at the time called me Big Daddy.” The nickname stuck and Grassby decided it was the perfect moniker for his small store with a big selection.


To get a membership at Big Daddy’s you only have to have a credit card which allows you to rent from their selection of nearly 7,500 films. The cost for renting a new release is $5 for one or two nights and $4.50 for week long rentals. Box sets will run you between $10 and $14. There are loads of specials during the week like three movies for $10, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays is two movies for $5.


What movies are big at Big Daddy’s? Grassby tells me, “T.V. shows are big. The Wire was great for us,” adding, “Things do well in their time, like Sopranos and Mad Men.” Series like MI5 proved very popular as well. Not feeling like T.V. tonight? Then check out Big Daddy’s huge selection of Criterion Collection titles or peruse their impressive documentary section. “Environmental documentaries are very popular right now,” says Grassby who’s love of the genre has influenced his clientele to indulge.


What is it that makes Big Daddy’s a popular spot for Junction locals? Grassby believes that the relaxed attitude at the store is what makes Big Daddy’s special. More than that, the staff is something that Grassby is proud of, “We have had the same staff for years.” A staff of only four, giving the shop an even more close-knit vibe. Made especially personal by the art that is for sale on the walls of the shop, created by Big Daddy’s own, Matthew Marigold, a talented photographer and artist.


“We are all very into music here,” Grassby says of his staff, and that love is reflected in their large selection of music documentaries. Big Daddy’s also offers organic snacks and drinks for healthy movie munchies. Community pride is important at Big Daddy’s which sells “The Junction” shorts and hoodies. Mostly, Big Daddy’s just focuses on the movies. “We don’t have a lot of space so I wanted to make sure it gets used for the films.”


Grassby says he is worried about the effect of online providers like Netflix, as he has seen other video store owners forced to close their doors. Over the last few months he says that, “a lot of red flags have gone up,” though he hopes the pendulum will swing back when customers realize the true cost of online viewing. As a movie fan Grassby wonders where like-minded viewers can get the kinds of movies offered at independent video stores if online becomes the only source, “I honestly think, I don’t know where I would watch these movies if I didn’t have a store to go to. I am hoping there are enough of us out there to make it work.” “Are the days of the video stores making tons of money gone? Yeah,” Grassby laments but he believes that video shops like Toronto’s independent stores can get by because they provide a service; a service based on selection and personal attention. The truth is that nothing online can compare to visiting your local video store and interacting with other movie buffs.


Inside Big Daddy DVD Shop.

When I ask Grassby the dreaded question, “What are your favorite movies?” I see the pained look of the movie fan forced to choose. “The movie that blows me away is 2001: [A Space Odyssey] .” Grassby decides. His love of documentaries is something we already talked about and it was classic films on TVO as a kid which originally sparked his love for cinema. Japanese films are also on the top of Grassby’s list. Hara Kiri and Sword of Doom top the list, not to mention the works of Akira Kurosawa. All four or Big Daddy’s staff also have their picks displayed on the favorites wall if you need any recommendations and if there is any film that you desire and Big Daddy’s doesn’t carry it, just ask and they will gladly order it for your viewing pleasure.

Big Daddy’s DVD Shop is the kind of video store you imagine when you think about the perfect local treasure chest of cinema. For most people living in “The Junction”, their proximity to the Park is what excites them, but for me it would be my proximity to Big Daddy’s DVD Shop.


The Place: Big Daddy’s DVD Shop

Find It At: 3044 Dundas Street West

Call “˜Em: (416) 916-7853

On the Web: On Facebook

Size of Selection: 7,500

Needed to Rent: Just a credit card.

Cost to Rent: $5 for one or two nights. $4.50 for week long rentals. Box sets are between $10 and $14. Weekly specials, too.