You wanted it; he had it…

In the late 80s, I finished high school and got myself a couple of summer jobs. One was with a kids’ arts camp and the other in a record store. I would get up in the morning, grab the camp bus at the mall nearby. When I returned each day, I’d rush like crazy to get the transit all the way from the north-west end of Mississauga to Kipling station in Toronto. For those in the know, that’s a hefty trip.

I worked for Music World. But I didn’t want to work for Music World. I wanted to work for Sam the Record Man.

By the fall, I transferred to the Music World store in Square One, Mississauga. It was just across the hall and down the escalator from Sam’s. I was happy as long as I was around music, but I still (not so) secretly wanted to work for Sam’s. And so I set about visiting the store frequently and pestering the manager until he finally agreed to employ me.

It was a better store. It had a better selection. Its flagship store in downtown Toronto was THE store to go to. After all, musicians flocked there. Sam Sniderman was a mentor of sorts to these musicians and, I daresay, many would not have wound up where they are without him.

Whatever music you were looking for, he had it.

Over the years, I worked at many stores: A&A, Sunrise, Discus, Music World and other Sam’s locations. Eventually, finishing up post-secondary, I moved on to working within the area I had studied and had to leave behind retail record store days.

I will never forget:

  • Hand writing orders on carbon paper order forms
  • Manual inventory
  • Writing up record bags with sharpies
  • Spending almost my entire wages on records I kept in the back room in a milk crate awaiting next pay day
  • Those crazy grease pencils we used to price the product because it wiped off so easily
  • The wonderful characters I worked with and the variety of musical tastes – this is where I learned the most about music
  • Amazingly creative displays created by store staff

There are so many other things and it’s impossible to list them all, but I will always, always be grateful that I worked in an industry that fostered creativity and a love for music. It was the ‘cool’ place to work. It’s unfortunate that we lost the stores before we lost the man.

Originally published on (now defunct) on September 24, 2012

Photo Credit: By Ian Muttoo (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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