Casablanca Video finds new life in bigger store

Casablanca Video, a city stalwart for 33 years, could have closed its doors when owner John Lord died earlier this year, but instead the store has been moved to a bigger site.

Widow of founder Jon Lord turning back room into a place for film study and education

Casablanca Video has moved from its former home in Marda Loop. (CBC)

Casablanca Video, a city institution for 33 years, might have closed its doors when owner Jon Lord died earlier this year.

After all, the big-name rental stores have all disappeared with the emergence of streaming video on the internet and on-demand cable viewing.

But Lord's wife Sheryl Guillaume is doubling down on the store: She's moved it to a bigger location in a southeast strip mall off Macleod Trail, and she's renamed it Jon Lord's Casablanca Video.

"It's his store, it's his legacy," Guillaume told CBC News. "Some say put your name up. I didn't do it. It's his sweat, his tears.

"It's his love."

Guillaume said many people advised her to simply close the store.

"You know, it was suggested 'just dump it in the garbage' because, you know, everything's on demand - and I'm going, 'No!'"

That's because Guillaume is convinced there is still a place for video rentals.

"You know there's only so many that are digitally produced," she said. "The older stuff, because of rights and different things with that, aren't."

John Wotton, a customer who's been coming to the store for 15 years, agrees.

It's his store, it's his legacy.- Sheryl Guillaume, on her late husband John Lord

"We need stores like this," he said. "The young people need to watch a movie like African Queen and some of Clint Eastwood's old movies, so you need a store like this!"

Guillaume, who hopes to add to the store's bottom line by selling merchandise including movie memorabilia and posters, is planning to turn Casablanca Video's back room into a place for film study and education.

But the main product remains the enormous video stockpile, which Guillaume believes is the largest in North America.

"Basically we've got all of our new releases, or three quarters of our new releases, up on the wall ready to go," Guillame said over the whine of drills as workers installed shelving.

Asked whether she thought her late husband would be proud of her move, she replied: "Yes, he'd be jumping up and down."

Besides being a businessman, Lord served two terms as an alderman for Calgary's Ward 8 between 1995 and 2001 and one term as a Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgar- Currie between 2001 and 2004. He ran for mayor in the 2010 and 2013 municipal elections. In 2012, he ran for the Calgary Centre federal Conservative nomination.