Nestled into the pretty Baldwin Village in Toronto’s west end is a tiny gem of a shop that makes up for what it lacks in size with an abundance of charm and the feeling that you’re amongst a family of true cinephiles. The Little Video Shop acts as a sort of hub for the community, offering not only popcorn, hot drinks and gelato on top of a well-curated film collection, but also a respite from the bustling city streets.
Visitors can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi as they relax on the homey front porch taking in the always colourful street traffic and contemplating which of the shop’s 8000-plus film collection will be coming home with them tonight.
Owner Leila Deciantis worked in the medical sector before taking over the shop from the elderly couple who originally owned it. “They were retiring from the store so it was something for me to take over. I’ve always loved movies, especially independent and foreign films and things that are out of the ordinary,” Deciantis explained. “I’ve always wanted to have a community shop where people can come and you can talk to them about movies. It was my dream.” The shop quickly morphed from primarily VHS (“They all went to a good home.”) to DVD and an outdoor screen was added to project films on the weekends.
The Little Video Shop is a cash-only operation, so in order to open a membership, you’ll need to leave a $20 deposit that’s refundable when the account is closed. New release rentals are priced at $5 each and older, 7-day rentals are $4. There are also daily specials that encourage customers to try out a genre they might not otherwise be drawn to. “I love to make people aware of movies they’re not familiar with,” Deciantis says. “I’ve geared my specials so that customers get a free documentary, foreign, classic, Canadian, or musical [with rental of a new release] so they can try something they don’t normally experience.”
What with so many of the newer releases available from numerous sources (including the dreaded Netflix), Deciantis has found it pays to provide an alternative to the mainstream. “I have quite a few customers who are beginning to get excited about independent and foreign films. Also, quite a few of the young ones like the classics: Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, stuff like that. That really excites me because they’re all a part of history.”
THE INSIDE SCOOP
What makes The Little Video Shop different from other indie stores? “We’re community-minded. People like to come in and chat,” Deciantis says. “I like people to know that if they have a problem or need somebody to talk to or a shoulder to lean on, I’m there.”
The shop boasts one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in Toronto. They specialize in foreign films, classics and rare documentaries on top of their ever-expanding selection of films you might find on numerous yearly “Best Of” lists.
WHY GET OFF THE COUCH?
Deciantis believes the ease of instantly downloading a film will never replace the feeling of familiarity that comes with frequenting a local shop. She explains, “Most of my customers end up becoming friends. They feel comfortable saying, I’ll pay you tomorrow. It’s a small town in a big city.” The Little Video Shop also serves up some of the best popcorn in Toronto: customers sometimes even call ahead to reserve a bag to take with them to the cinema.
The shop’s website offers a list of regularly updated staff and customer favourites, but Deciantis is eager to talk about some of the films she regularly recommends. “The Best of Youth is an Italian film that spans over 40 years in the life of an Italian family. Le Quattro Volte is a fascinating bird’s eye view into a town in Italy. Irina Palm is a fabulous film starring Marianne Faithfull about a grandmother who needs money so goes into the sex trade. Also, Angel-A is just so much fun.” As for must-see Canadian films, Deciantis suggests Khaled, Incendies and Saint Ralph as well as Cooking With Stella,which she describes as “a cute little film” but also offers full disclosure concerning her affection for it: “the Director is a friend,” she says with a smile. “We got to know each other because he was a customer.”
The Place: The Little Video Shop
Hours: Monday – Thursday, Sunday: 12 pm – 10 pm. Friday – Saturday: 12 pm – 11 pm.
Find It At: 13 Baldwin St.
Call “˜Em: (416) 205-9435
On the Web: http://www.freedom24.org/littlevideoshop/
Size of Selection: 8000 +
Needed to Rent: A $20 deposit
Cost to Rent: $5 for a new release, $4 for an older, 7-day rental.