so long sam the record man (yet again)

Sam the Record Man
From Toronto Guidebook, published by Toronto Life in 1974:
Toronto's two best record shops are practically next-door neighbors. Together they offer the widest selection of records in the city, and maybe the world; Sam the Record Man, 347 Yonge St. and A&A Records, 351 Yonge St. Both stores are open until around midnight every day, including Sunday. (156)

A&A, owned in its later years by an American conglomerate, is long gone. After a dance with death several years ago, Sam's is about to join it in the history books.

No More Chess
During childhood visits to my grandparents, it was rare that Dad and I didn't stop at either of the record stores on Yonge. I barely remember any details about A&A, but the handwritten artist dividers, the tossed-together atmosphere and the signatures on the walls of Sam's linger. Dad usually spent an hour or two browsing the classical record section in the back - it was one of the few places I recall him looking through the regular-priced bins, occasionally picking up a record that wasn't marked down. After checking out, we occasionally watched the hard-core chess players on the sidewalk.

Sam's was where my monster music collection starting rolling, thanks to a grade 8 field trip. The teachers went on about how when we reached Yonge St, we had to go to the head shops. In my group, I was firm: we had to go to Sam's. My cassette collection tripled in size after that trip - if memory serves, the albums included:

Appetite For Destruction - Guns n' Roses
Track Record - The Guess Who (everyone thought I'd bought a Who tape)
Open Up And Say Ahhh - Poison (only because everybody else in my class had it)
either Volume 1 - Traveling Wilburys or Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty

(Other highlights of that trip: one kid who was swarmed for his shoes at Fairview Mall, being designated button-pusher for the porn previews at the hotel and, in another room, MuchMusic running Like A Prayer all night to determine if it was too much for Much - few parts of Amherstburg had access to cable, so Much was a novelty).

The Sell-Off Begins
I wandered in after work on Wednesday to see if the inventory sell-off had started. The second floor has been closed off, while the level of inventory on the main floor is lower than I expected. I browsed half-heartedly, not seeing anything that grabbed my eye, though I contemplated buying some 99 cent Body Break CDs to give away as novelty items. Fellow browsers looked as unenthusiastic, a sense of sadness hanging in the air.

The site's contents will be auctioned off in less than two weeks. Hopefully the efforts forming to preserve the spinning discs on the site or elsewhere in the city will pay off, as a reminder of a chapter of the city's retail and cultural history.


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