In 1998, the hubs and I moved into our first place together. It was a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a mostly elderly tenant building on Wellington Street West, in Barrie, Ontario. Our apartment overlooked Highway 400 – the predominant route for traffic going from the big smoke of Toronto to the Muskokas and Northern Ontario. We lived in that apartment for four years until we bought our first home. In total, we lived in Barrie for 7 years, and saw the town grow from a bedroom community to a bustling city where roads were often gridlocked and the vacancy rate near 0%.
It helps to know your way around Barrie, and lucky for us, when we decided last-minute to make the hour-long trip recently we maneuvered our way around the back roads to avoid the busier arteries. This day, our trajectory pointed us toward a few key gaming and thrift shops that historically we’ve had some luck in, and maybe get a bite to eat. Because we know Barrie so well, we could leave our TomTom GPS in the glove compartment of the car instead of relying on it to take us down some cow path to Barrie.
The challenge that we normally face commuting to Barrie from our home base of Stouffville is there is no direct route from where we live. Lake Simcoe takes all our “direct route” real estate, which means the easiest way to get there is to cut through the Town of Newmarket. This summer though, Newmarket is a nightmare to drive through. Every major road running east to west has some type of construction inhibiting access. But, we planned accordingly and got through it with the least amount of aggravation. Highway 400, on the other hand, is a different story. This highway has seen a lot of accidents. It can be a perfectly sunny day and some accident can cause a 3 hour backup. Lucky for us, today would be smooth sailing.
Our first stop was to our old stomping ground around our old apartment on Wellington Street West. At the back of it is a strip mall with a Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills Grocery, a restaurant and some shops, including a Value Village. One stop shopping! We headed over to Value Village, and I am sad to report we didn’t find much (Boo!).
Not yet tasting defeat, but feeling hungry, we walked across the parking lot to the Little D’s Diner for a satisfying bite – a hamburger and fries for the hubs, and a club sandwich for me. This little understated hole in the wall is a bonafide diner: all-day breakfast, soup of the day, hot turkey sandwiches and delicious coffee. I have never walked away having eaten a bad meal at Little D’s.
Where to next? Right next door to the diner is Bandito Video, a store we haven’t been to in ages. Evidently, unlike many other cities in Ontario, no one told Bandito that it was time to hang up its movie and game rental/retail business when Blockbuster shut its doors. The blue and gold used to EVERYWHERE and was the one place you could find used movies and games for a decent price. Movie rental joints are becoming few and far between as Netflix and Red Boxes are taking over. Rogers Video outlets used to sell used entertainment also, but Blockbuster’s mighty fall must have scared the hell out of them as they no longer exist.
Bandito Video was once a chain of movie rental stores. Sooner or later however, the chains broke, leaving only one living store in Barrie, Ontario. When the hubs and I moved to our first apartment, we were delighted that there was a movie rental joint close by. Both movie lovers on a limited budget, we could rely on Bandito to provide us with a very large selection of movies – at the time in VHS, later in DVD – in a very large store. Teal-painted walls, teal and red checkered floors, and fake cacti and sombreros dressed their store. Free popcorn was constantly being made, and the place was always a madhouse as people planned their weekly movie-watching in-store. Today, it was “same as it ever was,” except…it wasn’t.
Entering the store, that distinct smell of freshly made popcorn was present, and if it wasn’t for the meal I had just consumed, I would have insisted on a small bag to take on the go! Still the same teal walls and checkered floor donned the decor. I was happy to be back among the familiar surroundings!
But, browsing through the store, you start to notice how things have been going for Bandito over the past few years. First and foremost, the large expanse of the store was no longer: it was now half the size. A wall had been built, cutting off a large portion of the area that housed their older stock. A small area was being used to sell used video games. Another sad reality: another area of the store was kept to liquidate stock from one of Bandito’s last chains that had recently shut down in Angus, Ontario. And lastly, the store was eerily quiet – us being the only customers for the full 45 minutes we were there. To be fair, it was a Monday afternoon, and probably not their busiest time. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the movie rental business isn’t as lucrative as it once was. Walking the aisles, I thought about all the times I browsed and found those hidden sleeper films that later became a part of my own DVD collection…and then wondered to myself if this would be one of the last times I’d be at Bandito Video. I hope not.
One store’s decline can be one man’s win fall, however. Ask my husband! Bandito was selling off their stock of used console games – 2 for $10, 2 for $20…the credit card took a hit this day. I can’t possibly name all the ones he found, but he had been searching for some of these games for a long time. The prices were too good to pass up!
We left Bandito with a bag of goodies, and headed towards another favourite movie rental place – VideoTime – a store situated in the Kozlov Centre, a mall off of Barrie’s main drag, Bayfield Street. VideoTime is also a movie rental joint that like Bandito Video had a few locations around Barrie that have since closed. Today, VideoTime still offers movies for rent, but their selection is less than ever from what I could see, and it appears they are concentrating their efforts more on selling their large selection of used games and gaming accessories than movie rentals. Because of its location, the hubs and I would never rent anything from this store, but we would often stop by to dig for deals on used games. Most of the more common games are kept out on the floor, while rarer games and consoles are found locked tight in showcases. Prices vary at VideoTime. It would seem that what they deem precious is what you pay top dollar for, while what is out on the floor is more affordable. Collectors of pristine copies of games may be disappointed here, however: to VideoTime’s detriment, their showcases use mostly fluorescent lights to highlight their stock, fading the covers of those rarer games. Too bad.
The stock out on the floor, mostly Xbox, Wii and PS2 and PS3 games, was still worth checking out, and the hubs found some more games to add to his booming collection.
At the back of the store, VideoTime keeps a small dusty collection of old PC games, which is right in my wheelhouse. I don’t often find anything that interests me at VideoTime, but this day I couldn’t believe what I discovered.
Anyone familiar with Bill Kurtis and his shows on A&E, American Justice and Cold Case Files? I used to LOVE those shows. Unfortunately, they are no longer on air, and are hard to find to watch them on the interwebs (someone posts them on YouTube only to have them pulled off). At any rate, who knew a game was created based on one of my favourite shows?! The narration is done by Bill Kurtis himself! I have since played the game, so watch for that review shortly!
After the credit card took a hit at two stores, and with the afternoon waning, we felt it was time to head back home, happy with our new additions! It was fun taking a trip down memory lane. Here’s hoping these stores will still be kicking the next time we make the pilgrimage to Barrie, Ontario. We had a nice time and we hope to do it again.