June is around the corner and Mickey, Nancy and Justin Rapaport are eagerly anticipating another hot summer in Grand Bend, Ontario.
Owners of Coco’s, a prominent hotel/restaurant/nightclub, the Rapaport family and their business are the focus of MDF Productions’ original documentary/soap opera series Grand Benders, currently in its second season. The show follows the family of three, along with their friends and employees, through the ups and downs of running a longtime family business in a classic beach town.
Make that party town.
“Grand Bend has pretty much always been known as the summer getaway for southwestern Ontario,” says 20-something Justin, kitchen/bar manager and son of Mickey and Nancy. “It’s THE place to be during the summer. We have probably one of the best beaches, beautiful sunsets…without Grand Bend, I think everyone in this area would go crazy. People come here to blow off some steam and just have a good time.”
Whether they’re renters of the local cottages, students on a weekend jaunt from Windsor or tourists crossing the border, the town’s visitors come from all over. And if Coco’s was a landmark before, the 25-year old establishment is even more of a hot spot now.
“We have noticed a difference since the first season aired because people recognize Coco’s as the place that’s on the TV show,” says Justin. “They’ll come in just because they know that it’s ‘the place to be’. This past weekend especially, everyone was kind of looking at me like they knew me. It’s definitely an adjustment; usually I blend in. But now people recognize me so I can’t hide anymore!”
So how does the presence of a film crew change day-to-day business for the Rapaports?
“It’s kind of funny because when the camera crew is around, they always seem to be there at my most stressed out moments,” laughs Justin.
“I got used to filming while running a business,” adds Mickey. “But I always have to have my wits about me, because nothing is scripted. We run what’s known as a Mom’s and Pop’s; you do your business downstairs and live upstairs. So I’d wake up in the morning and come downstairs to have my coffee; and they’re already there on the steps with the camera, waiting to ask questions. But I got used to it!”
Although often touted “Canada’s Jersey Shore”, Grand Benders represents something quite different for Justin.
“I don’t mind the comparison, but I don’t think that’s what Coco’s is really meant to be,” he says. “I’d describe the show as more of a father/son dynamic mixed in with a documentary soap opera. There is so much drama…but when I actually watch the episodes I notice that it focuses a lot on me and my Dad…I didn’t know it at the time of filming, because I had no idea how the show was formatted. When they showed up, I asked what I should do and they said ‘Just do what you do’. I thought it was great.”
The show essentially had its start from a YouTube video posted by Mickey about his town.
“The producer was scouting for a unique place in Canada; a beach or resort town,” recalls Mickey. “He saw a YouTube video I posted …everyone starts somewhere, right? He really liked it and was curious about the person behind the video. So he showed up and we started talking. He took a few clicks on his iPhone and showed it to some people in Toronto; then he came back and said ‘We got the show’.”
Although originally planned to be just a one-hour documentary, the production company ended up sticking around for the entire summer and the show evolved into a full-fledged series. Season 2 is well underway and a third is planned. In fact, “The third season is going to be even funnier,” promises Mickey.
Season 2 episodes of Grand Benders can currently be seen exclusively online at www.grandbenders.com or bpmtv.com.