Thursday, April 28, 2016

Million Carpets and Tiles comedy video: mockery or loving tribute?

   Adrian Burhop's comedy troupe has filmed a series of retro comedy videos at old style Montreal retail outlets, making perhaps its cleverest effort yet with a video shot at the Million Carpets and Tiles store at Bernard and St.Lawrence.
   The video shows three salesmen clad in dreadful seventies styles flirting with a female employee as they strut around the store hamming it up for the camera, on video that employs a deliberately washed-out colour palette.
   Store manager Mark Skoda understands that his family-run store was the perfect venue because older, trusted and reliable equipment is still in use.
   "We're extremely modern in our products and how we sell but we have dated equipment. We haven't changed our office equipment but the products we sell are ahead of the competition," he said.
  The store started after Grandpa Skoda, a Catholic Slovak who barely spoke English, made a clever deal with his boss.
  He noticed that the linoleum factory he worked at was heated by burning castoff scraps of linoleum, so he made a deal with the boss to allow him to take the scraps for himself in exchange for coal.
  He brought coal to heat the fires and in return he was allowed to haul off all the excess linoleum that would otherwise have been burned.
  Soon Skoda had earned enough to start his own shop at the Main and St. Catherine in 1939. He then moved to Mayor and Bleury, a space later expropriated for Place des Arts, a deal that left a tidy sum in company pockets.
   The orphaned store needed a new spot, so the Skodas chose Bernard and St. Lawrence, then seen as a Hassidic village with needletrade all around.
   A beanery sat where the gas station is now and beside it was a landmark bar that had several identities, the longest lasting being the Sex Tuple strip club.
Mark Skoda
   Skeptics thought that the new location would never work but Steven Skoda, who had taken over from his father, invested $4,000 in a magnificent neon sign and soon sales were up 50 percent.
   The store has survived through many demographic changes and Steven, who fathered 13 children with a Sicilian-Canadian, handed it down to son Mark and a few other siblings who have operated the business since the 1980s.
   Many of the hipster crowd that now inhabit Mile End area have become loyal customers, including Arcade Fire, who rehearsed their hit albums in a space across the street.
   With the comedy video, the circle seems complete: past and present, hipster and merchant have all been brought together in one mirthful moment of affection.
   The troupe also previously did a video poking fun at the Poubelle du Ski (without going inside) and another at the nearby Jeans Jeans Jeans store as well as a more-talky effort in which they sell off various parts of the city.
   Skoda said the actors seemed professional, coming in on a Saturday at 5 p.m. and staying until 10:30 p.m, employing the services of a hired actress to complete the troupe.
   "They tried to be creative. I thought they did a good job," said Skoda. "I don't know the why they put that cheesy music on though, it gives it a sound of an 18-and-over film from 1985."

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