Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rest In Peace, Sam.

As half Canadian (the GOOD, half, Mum!), I was saddened by the closure of the best damn music store in the world a few month's back. I have many fond memories taking the GO train to Yonge Street, walking to Sam's and spending HOURS upon HOURS just browsing through their bins. Even if you've never been to Sam The Record Man, I'll bet that you've had a favorite 'brick and mortar' record shop that has recently bit the dust. Just insert the name of that store in place of 'Sam's' in the below article for maximum empathy.

I've been meaning to post this 'obit' from the Toronto Star for a while now, but oh well, better late than never, right?

Debra Black
Staff Reporter

"It was an iconic landmark in Toronto – both culturally and musically. Everybody who was anybody in Toronto went to Sam the Record Man on Yonge St. to get the latest music, hang out and, if you were lucky, maybe catch a glimpse of a burgeoning music star.

But as of the end of June, Sam the Record Man is finally closing its doors – a victim of the vagaries of the retail record business and declining CD sales thanks to the Internet.
"We are making a responsible decision in recognizing the status of the record industry and the increasing impact of technology," said Bobby Sniderman in a news release.

Sniderman is one of the present owners of the store and one of the sons of Sam Sniderman, the man who built the record store dynasty that rivalled many around the world.

"But there is a wonderful story to be told here, not about the current state of the industry, but about a family business that operated for 70 years in record retailing. Throughout that time our family has made significant contributions to the music industry, for Canadian artists and to the community as a whole ...

"This is about more than just bricks and mortar; Sam the Record Man is the most recognizable name in the Canadian music industry, an iconic legacy that will forever endure ..."

Sam Sniderman first began selling records out of his brother's radio shop in 1937. The flagship store on Yonge St. – with its garish neon signs of spinning records – was opened in 1961. Over 40 or so years, Sniderman turned it from a one-shop operation into a successful chain of 130 stores across Canada. The Yonge St. store covered 40,000 square feet. In 2002, it carried 400,000 titles.

Sniderman took pride in his business as baby boomers and music lovers flocked to his Yonge St. music shrine, famous for its Boxing Day lineups and discounts.

"That was the point where I knew every record in the store," he told the Star's Mitch Potter in 2001. "Sometimes I got stumped. But more often than not, you could ask me for the most obscure record on the planet and I would disappear for a few minutes and come back with it in my hands."

Along the way Sniderman also helped Canadian performers, including Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray and bands like the Guess Who. His contribution to the music business earned him an Order of Canada.

But the company ran into trouble in 2001, filing for bankruptcy in October and closing its doors in late December. Competition from music superstores such as HMV and discount retailers like Wal-Mart, coupled with Internet downloads, all spelled trouble for the Toronto record retailer. A&A Records two doors away also closed in the 1990s.

At the Boxing Day sale that year (sidenote to Americans: the day AFTER Christmas), consumers were upset that Sam the Record Man was closing. "I used to come here as a kid to buy 33s for 66 cents," one Hamilton man told the Star. "I would buy early Beach Boys, the Beatles. It has been my life tradition."

The legendary flagship store opened again in January 2002, however, as a new company owned by Sniderman's two sons, Bobby and Jason Sniderman.

The two brothers had big plans. But the popularity of the Internet and music superstores proved too much.

Despite valiant efforts, the brothers just couldn't make it work. Sam the Record Man on Yonge St. will close its doors on June 30."

1 comment:

Rob said...

Also being half Canadian, but having never enjoyed the full benefits of "Sam", I will retroactivley mourn the loss of a friend.
It is indeed quite sad that stores like this are disappearing like a fart in the wind. I can only imagine what generations will be saying when today's technology also disappears!

"Remember when we used to log on to" and just click our mouse for hours listening to the first 10 seconds of songs....yeah, good times!!