Road Tripping Part 2: Finding Nostalgia and the Motherlode in Barrie, ON

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.

 

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17 comments

  1. I lived in Barrie from 1990-1993. I went back last year and boy did the city change. I used to love The Roxx(I saw Gowan there), Spuds, going to concerts at Molson Park. Now they are all gone, and the city is huge. I hope the trip brought back good memories for you like it did for me.

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    1. It always does. We lived there until early 2006, but I still worked there for another two and a half years – commuting from Stouffville. I don’t miss that run, especially in the winter! But, yes, even over the past 5 years things have changed! Molson Park is no more. I do have some good memories of Barrie.

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  2. So while you were there, I hope you “broke into the old apartment… this is where we used to live!”

    Molson Park is gone? I saw Pearl Jam/Cheap Trick (and four other bands) there in 1996.

    Cool road trip story. I’m glad you guys found lots to keep you entertained!

    You live in a part of the province I know little about (yet). I’ve been through Newmarket (we stopped for gas) but I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Stouffville (yet). Never know where the travels will take us, though.

    As for Barrie, it’s about 2 hours east of here, and if we’re gonna drive that long to get somewhere (which isn’t actually all that often), we’d be more likely to head south to Kitchener, Guelph or Toronto. Still, we seem to end up in Barrie every 5 years, or so. I hear what you’re saying about the expansion, and the traffic. Last time we were there, we were in this skanky used book store downtown somewhere, and the two dudes running it were drinking. We could smell it strongly. They stopped while we were there (only customers in there), but kept giving us the eye like we should leave so they could resume drinking. It was sad. Also, we found nothing there.

    I’d love to go through some of those thrift-type shops over there again, though. Visiting new towns exponentially increases the chances… never know what great musics will turn up. Maybe even Grail List items that such shops don’t realize have value.

    I’d offer to look for titles here that you might be seeking, but my town really sucks for that stuff. We don’t have an old video shop that sells used games, just EB Games.

    Anyway, blah blah blah. Glad you had fun! That’s quite a pile of games you got…

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    1. Ha! No, we didn’t break into the old apartment, but looks like it got a nice facelift – new windows and doors, glass balcony…It wasn’t a bad place to live all things considered.

      Molson Park was sold, torn down and became “Park Place” which is basically full of big box stores – Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. Mapleview Drive is a madhouse – do not recommend navigating through that unless necessary!

      I think I know the used bookstore you’re talking about – Kerry’s? I don’t know about the drinking part, but that place is full of piles of books, and run by a couple of guys. There is another bookstore that might pique your interest – Rivendell books in the Wellington Plaza – right next door to Bandito Video. Nice and clean place. There was also a scuzzy record store downtown – don’t know if it’s still open – I think it’s BJ’s records on Clapperton St. Get your hazmat suit going into that basement, yo! lol

      Stouffville has been a great place geographically for us – 20 minutes from Uxbridge (used to have a great used bookstore and a blockbuster), 16 to Markham, 20 to Pickering proper, 20 to Newmarket… I’ve lived in Sudbury, London, North Bay, Barrie and now Stouffville. There isn’t much except good food and tat parlours in Stouffville, unfortunately, that’s why we escape to other areas!

      I’m not terribly familiar with Owen Sound, but good to know there isn’t much up that way in terms of games. I still like to check places out – see the charms of a place.

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      1. Aw man, you should have stomped on the floors JUST FOR FUN…

        I think a slew of big box stores is just about The Last place you would find me. Haha Bed Bath & F@$k Right Off no thank you.

        I don’t remember the name of that bookstore. And I shouldn’t cast aspersions, maybe they were just having a bad day? A slow day? A… Tuesday? Who knows.

        If I’m ever over there again I am totally going to Rivendell Books because it makes me think of RUSH.

        Our one used record shop here in OS also requires a hazmat suit. But it’s awesome if you want the complete discography of Pat Benetar on LP.

        Stouffville sounds convenient to lots of places, I like that. OS is sort of in the middle of a very pretty section of the province and about 2-3 hours from anything actually going on EVER.

        I’ve lived in a few places. Gorrie, Windsor, Kitchener AND Waterloo, Montreal, Saskatoon and now Owen Sound. Given druthers, I’d go back to Montreal. Tomorrow. I’ll pack tonight.

        If you guys like the outdoors, boating and fishing and hiking and sight-seeing along the escarpment and a whole lot of old people, OS is a cool place to visit. It’s also really convenient to some pretty sweet beaches, if you like running out of land because water took over. You could probably do the downtown of OS in ten minutes, though. I know that isn’t fair, but every time someone comes up with an idea for actual growth here in town, council always votes it down. We can’t have CHANGE, don’t you know. It’s never changed before, why would we start now? 1952 was just fine for all involved, thank you very much. Ugh.

        It’s OK, I’m not bitter. But if they ever ask me I’ll tell them why most of the young people leave as soon as they can.

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        1. Stouffville had the moniker of “slowville” for a long time. When we moved here, the pop was 21000. Today, 8 yrs later – 38000. Development has overtaken. The Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville (stouffville’s proper name) is a huge swath of mostly farmland, and if developers have their way it’ll all be gone-dy.

          You ever hear about the Pickering airport? The feds want it built yesterday. Go down the road 5 mins from our house, and you hit the boundaries of it. Our area will be near the flightpath for sure. We hope we’ll be old and retired before it actually gets built so we can sell and get the eff out. That is if something happens with our jobs, etc and we have to move before then or whatever. Stouff was a quiet town, it’s getting busier. Now I say, “our street is a quiet street…” So far, I have enjoyed living here, but there can be charms to any place.

          Speaking of big boxes, Stouff got WalMart, Staples, Bouclair home (barf) and a Winners in the last 5 years. *3* Timmy Ho Hos!! And there’s not a darn thing for youth to do here unless they have a car and gtfo.

          We’re quiet people who love our quiet life, and Stouffville has provided that to us, but we have noticed the increase in noise and traffic.

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      2. What OS needs is jobs. What do they build, when they finally get permission and zoning and their act together? Retail. So all the people who don’t have jobs can go spend money they don’t have on things they don’t likely need.

        Built, as it is, in the valley of the escarpment and pushed up against the shores of Georgian Bay, OS is a bit like Japan – there’s only so much real estate to go around. Any substantial new development would have to take place on the tops of the hills, on either side of the valley. We’ve been here 9 years and all we’ve seen, mostly, is places going out of business. And companies offering to build here being turned down. It’s sad.

        Blah blah bah, I think the population here has been static, give or take, for decades. It may never change. In a way, I get that they don’t want it – it’s pretty here, and more cars and people and everything would muck up the landscape a bit. And tourists are obnoxious. I get that. I would still say it could do some good to create some jobs and give people reason to want to stay.

        Anyway. I did not know about the airport. Sucks that you’d be right in the way of it. We have friends who own a house sort of in the flight path of Pearson. They hear planes all day, but said they pretty quickly got used to it, don’t pay them much mind anymore. I can only hope, if this all happens to you guys, that the same can be said for you!

        As for beach bums, we’ve got a bunch of beaches. I do enjoy being close enough to the beach that we can just hop in the car and be to any number of them in under an hour (at the outside). Not bragging, but Mike’s loving to go to the cottage when he can is pretty much our backyard. That is a nice feature, I’ll admit. Give and take, around here, for sure.

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  3. WOW, Bandito Video. Now there is a name that I haven’t thought about in a long, long time. Thanks for the memories! Video Time doesn’t ring a bell. I do remember Jumbo Video.

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      1. Luuuuurved the free popcorn. I had a couple buddies that worked at various Jumbo Videos. I remember special-ordering Wallace and Grommit from one. Nobody had heard of Wallace and Grommit in Canada yet but somehow my sister saw it, and loved it.

        I miss browsing the old video stores. I miss running across something cool, randomly.

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        1. I turn to K and say to him, “I miss Blockbuster…” But more than that, I miss the experience of browsing and finding something cool to watch.

          When I lived in London, the Korean Confectionary had movies to rent – super cheap, and had some rare films I’d never think of watching – Woody Allen flicks, for example. I really miss that.

          Then I think how Blockbuster got greedy – hubris to the max! Killed the small mom n pops. Then they fell on their own sword and ruined it all. There is always Netflix I guess, but the physical experience – palpable experience – isn’t quite translated browsing online.

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          1. Hey not to change topics but did you see Aaron’s cupface?

            I haven’t used Netflix. I know I will at some point. TPB is going to exclusive to Netflix. I think I need to pare down my video collection though, first. Liquefy some assets somehow. I’d like to halve it. I don’t even know if that’s going to be possible, but that’s a goal I guess.

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            1. My God, you guys make me laugh!!! 😀
              Something I am doing as a way to disguise my mug (using a mug) and you guys are trending it. Hilarious! I am anxiously awaiting more Cupface pix!

              I’ve tried to pare down the collection – about every 6 months I go through it – and I unsuccessfully get rid of ZERO.

              My sis and her hubby successfully got rid of their entire collection by ripping them onto a terabyte or DLing them. That makes me nervous – a terabyte can fail, you know. Then what? A backup of a backup? OK feeling anxious thinking about it all…

              And about your cold – hot water with lemon and honey. Works every time. Don’t trust Cold FX – it’s placebo!

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  4. We’ve still got a ‘movie experts’ in Kingston and I believe a Jumbo video as well – no more bandito alas. I get heckled by friends for still enjoying renting a movie from a store as opposed to a site!

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