Yonge & Elm

Elm Street
Old stone buildings on Elm Street.

Elm Street
Gentrification on Elm Street.

I first started shopping at Sam's in the late 1970's. I'd often walk up and down Yonge Street visiting the many record stores trying to find the best deals. Most of the time, I'd find what I wanted either at Sam's or at A&A's (just beside Sam's). At that time, shoppers were crowded into the one narrow store behind the rightmost of the two big spinning neon disks. But smart shoppers knew about Sam's back door on Gould Street into the classical music section.

Sam the Record Man

As CD's became popular in the 1980's, the number of record stores gradually diminished, and even A&A's went under. But Sam's remained, even expanding in both directions on the street. First they expanded to the north in the early 1980's with another big spinning neon record. Then later in the mid 1990's, they "broke the bank" by expanding into a former bank building on the corner of Yonge and Gould.

This was without a doubt the best place to shop for recorded music. It wasn't just a store, but a tourist attraction. You could see hundreds of autographs of recording artists on the walls.

Sam the Record Man

A couple of years ago, Sam's declared bankruptcy. They just couldn't (or perhaps wouldn't) compete in a changed music market. During December and January, they started sales, first 30% off everything, then 40% and 50%.

In February though, Sam Sniderman's sons bought the chain, and kept the store. Some sections of the store were renovated: The classical music section now occupied the area that previously sold video tapes, and has been suitably redecorated. Also, the jazz section upstairs was nicely redone too.

Sam's always had the best selection in the city, and my purchases during the sell-off sales reflected that. I stocked up on several obscure Brave Combo CD's (available only as imports), as well as a few disks of Cuban music. Without Sam's, shopping for music would be much more difficult in this city. (Ironically, keeping all the good obscure titles in stock may well have contributed to Sam's decline.)

Sam the Record Man

Unfortunately, in spite of the re-organization and renovations, Sam's still couldn't hang on, and closed for good. The buildings have been purchased by the ever-expanding Ryerson University, which hopefully will preserve the landmark neon sign.