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Monday, 24 September 2012

Sam the Record Man's Winnipeg history

Sam the Record Man store at night
Sam the Record Man didn't open its first store in Winnipeg until 1972 but that's not to say that the chain and colourful owner Sam Sniderman, who passed away earlier this week, wasn't already known to thousands of Winnipeggers. The Toronto flagship outlet was a must-visit for any music fan passing visiting the city and its neon facade was as recognizable a symbol of  Toronto as the CN Tower.
 
By the time it opened here, Sam's was Canada's largest record retailer. The Yonge Street location alone sold between 8,500 - 9,000 albums on any given Friday or Saturday.

December 12, 1973, Winnipeg Free Press

The first Winnipeg Sam the Record Man store opened with little fanfare in a small mall at 376 Portage Avenue, where the manitoba Hydro Building now stands. In late 1973 they left downtown for a space at the new Garden City Shopping Centre. In 1975 a second store appeared in another newly opened mall, Unicity Fashion Square. A third location came in 1986, at the expanded Polo Park Mall.

At that point, Sam the Record Man had 115 stores across the country and accounted for 25% of Canada's record sales.

 November 1, 2001, Winnipeg Free Press

The 1980 were a challenge for Canadian record retailers. International chains with deep pockets entered the market and mail-order record clubs were stealing away customers. Sam felt the double blow and the chain began to shrink.

In the 1990s the Garden City and Unicity stores closed. On October 30, 2001 Sam the Record Man declared bankruptcy. That same day the remaining Winnipeg location at Polo Park also closed.

Two stores, one in Halifax and the Yonge Street flagship, survived bankrupt and finally closed in 2007.

In 2012 the building was demolished to make way for an expansion to Ryerson University. The sign was saved, though an original commitment to renovate and remount it appears to be in doubt.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice piece but 276 Portage is not where Portage Place is now. 4 blocks down and other side of the street.

mrchristian said...

Thanks, Anon. A double boo-boo on my part: it was 376 Portage, where the Hydro Tower is now. Correction made !

Anonymous said...

how about saying that the Pressman family ran the winnipeg stores??

mrchristian said...

You just did !

Anonymous said...

Where did folks buy records in Winnipeg before Sam the record Man?