In 1980 at a drive-in in Mission, BC future Cambie Village business owner RJ Rudd was a toddler bundled up in his parent’s car with stuffed animals, blankets, and treats watching Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The movie screen rose into his view surrounded by fields of green and the star-studded sky. This first movie experience sparked something inside RJ, a desire to explore the world of film that would later lead him to owning his own video store, Video Cat.
Trips to the video store became a favourite pastime for the budding cinephile and one video store stands out in his story: Black Dog Video. After noticing ads for Black Dog Video in the Georgia Straight newspaper that spoke directly to his expanding tastes in cinema RJ ventured down Cambie Street to visit the store. This first visit which included a discussion with the on-shift employee about the Twin Peaks TV series set the next 24 years in-motion.
The journey from customer to business owner began in 2011 when RJ started working at Black Dog as a one shift a week employee. Working in a video store was one of his dreams as a movie lover. He had finally achieved this dream but as dreams do, they evolve. Over the years RJ’s dedication to film and the worlds created on-screen grew leading him to become Store Manager.
Now nearly 25 years later, RJ owns the store and has renamed it “Video Cat,” to distinguish the brand from the Black Dog Video that is still owned and operated by Darren Gay on Commercial Drive. After years of creating dog-related sandwich board puns the opportunity to expand into cat puns and the availability of the business name became part of the naming process. Aptly one of the first Video Cat sandwich boards featured Puss-In-Boots stating, “There’s a mew cat in town.”
All of RJ’s playful puns can be found on the “Chalkboard” highlights on Video Cat’s Instagram page, or look for the sandwich board outside the store while walking along Cambie.
With his life-long dream of owning a video store achieved, RJ has turned his attention to creating a space at Video Cat that allows art, culture, and cinema to thrive. He wants to help people– find and connect with movies but also with each other. Which RJ plans to achieve by continuing to focus on the film collection at Video Cat: from Big Blockbuster new releases to quirky-indie, surrealist cinema, and International art-house releases.
As a film visionary RJ’s hope is for Video Cat to become a staple in the physical media landscape in Vancouver. It will be more than just a video store but a place for those people in Vancouver, or who visit Vancouver, who love film, art, and community to spend time together. A modern-day salon where people are accepted as they are and given the opportunity to be exposed to discussions about films: whether it is an 80s Comedy like Local Hero or a Japanese art-house film in the same way that RJ was when he first walked into the store in 1996. RJ stated that, “I truly believe in the importance of keeping culture alive in Vancouver and that’s why places like Video Cat are essential.”
Despite putting a halt to this transformation, the pandemic wasn’t all bad for Video Cat, with the store seeing a significant amount traffic at the start of the pandemic as people searched for timeless classics not available on the streaming sights.
Rudd is keeping the specifics of plans for a post close to his chest for now, but they will be revealed in time!
For more than two decades RJ has cultivated relationships in Cambie Village and through these relationships he found his home and brought a life-long dream to fruition.