Indie video stores proud of secret weapon

Video store patrons are watching a David and Goliath story play out in downtown Toronto.

A favourite independent video store continues to survive at 801 Queen St. W. despite the closings of several corporate video stores in the area. Daniel Hana owns and operates Eyesore Cinema. In the video business for 17 years, he says independent shops have a secret weapon.

“[Independent video stores offer] knowledge, enthusiasm and respect for customer and for the media,” he said. “Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, HMV – they’re interested in one thing, the bottom line. They’re in it to maximize their profit margin as much as possible. They couldn’t care less if it was DVDs or diapers or lawn furniture.”

Although major corporate video chains have struggled in North America recently, Hana said an interesting trend has emerged.

“People always ask me if I’m happy now that most Blockbusters are closed,” he said. “But they’ve basically just changed their name to Netflix and now they’re on the Internet. It’s the same mentality; tons of garbage as cheaply as possible.”

David A. Wolfe is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. He noted that corporate stores offer more products, but give up something else.

“There’s a lack of familiarity of the clerks (that customers) would see on a regular basis, who know their interest and could possibly suggest movies that they wouldn’t think of on their own.”

Hana and Wolfe agree that independent stores offer a more personalized service. Hana says the independent shop’s success depends on who’s behind the counter.

“Shops like this are a labour of love,” he said. “Especially the more idiosyncratic stores seem to reflect those who curate it.”

Hana said that customers don’t come to in his shop to get Hollywood mainstream.

“I think the roll of the independent video store … is to provide an outlet for non-mainstream products,” he said. “Our best running films are movies that no one has ever heard of.”

Wolfe said that independent video stores also help tie the community together.

“The local stores generally are part of the neighbourhood,” he said. “They’re part of the community and they support the local neighbourhood economy.”

On Oct. 15, Hana spearheads the first Independent Video Store Day. For more information visit: http://www.videostoreday.com