Feb 21, 2008
Yesterday, the south strip of buildings in the Queen and Portland area was devastated by a fire, in which several businesses were destroyed, and the residences above the stores are now homeless. Miraculously, no one was injured in this six-alarm blaze, yet we share the loss that this devastation has caused for business owners, residents, and consumers alike. I can only hope and pray that everyone can recover from this tragedy, and soon. For the film community, the loss was felt as the Queen location of Suspect Video was destroyed in the blaze.
Stacey Case and Colin Geddes have already paid proper respects to Suspect in their respective Facebook groups and blogs, and since they were both closer to the establishment and its staff, it would be dishonest of me to offer any kind of tribute that would even match the pain and loss that they now feel. (Colin, especially, was a manager for Suspect in the 1990s.) Yet I do understand, and empathize with, how much Suspect means to the film community as a whole. (I am not using the passive voice in this paragraph, as the Markham location still exists, and I have no doubt that Suspect will get back on its feet again with the support of its customers.) Suspect remains a beacon to those in the independent scene who didn’t settle for the bland pap that comprised most of Blockbuster’s inventory. Underground films, arthouse or foreign genre pictures are just some of the things among their specialties. But what is more, they offer toys, DVDs and zines for sale. For the discerning consumer, they are an invaluable resource. Further, Suspect continues to endorse special film screenings, celebrity appearances, and even carries local indpendent films and publications for sale that simply cannot be found in chain stores of either persuasion. It is more than a video store—it is a voice for the independent community as a whole.
While I most often visited the Markham St. location, as it was more accessible for me on the way home, Suspect continues to be an important place for me to source elusive titles for research in my own publication. And since I came to the zine scene quite late (2001, to be exact), well after the indie boom in the 1990’s, I can only estimate how much Suspect meant then. In the past year, I’ve lamented a lot about how much the independent scene was dwindled. And yet, with the outpouring of love and support from Suspect’s loyal customers, ironically, a horrible tragedy like this is reassuring, that people acknowledge how much this business means to them. It’s more than consumerism—Suspect speaks to our way of life, and our belief system.
As of this writing, still no one is certain what caused the fire, let alone in which of the buildings it originated. Already there are talks of having benefit shows, and as such, they can be assured they already have my money. But let’s not be tunnel-visioned here. Suspect was one among many of the homes and businesses lost in this tragedy, and if we’re going to honour anyone with a benefit, it should be for everyone. This perhaps adds to the community feeling that Suspect has always maintained.