Monday, September 24, 2012

Goodnight Sam 

"Sam at Night" image via Top Left Pixel, the famous Sam the Record Man sign was removed as part of Ryerson University's expansion on Yonge, and despite original intentions to replace it, now looks to be gone forever.

The effusive and popular Toronto businessman, Sam Sniderman, owner and founder of the iconic Sam the Record Man, passed away this weekend at the age of 92. The sign and the shop were so well known and loved that nearly everyone in Toronto has a personal story about the place. When I first visited Toronto on my own it was one of those destinations you had to visit, probably even more so than the CN Tower. I remember my initial dismay at the ramshackle and cluttered interior and the feeling that it was just a bunch of old townhouses and rooms connected together to make one large labyrinthian store. My next reaction was that of being overwhelmed by how much could be found there. A real Big City experience.

Then came the inevitable demise and drawn out closure with each local news outlet sending someone to stand inside and deliver their own tale of riding to Sam's (which everyone called it) on their bike on a Saturday and picking up a pile of 45s. By their recollections, a Saturday at Sam's must of been jammed with teens on bikes. My thoughts were always about that striking difference between the exterior and the interior. From the outside, that massive animated neon sign was such a symbol of modernity and urbanity, yet inside it seemed so jumbled and colloquial as to feel local and intimate. Compare the exterior without the sign and you'll see what I mean.

Sam exposed – image via Spacing Magazine. The store front without the sign reveals a more pedestrian and typical Toronto row-house.

Whatever the memories and symbolism of a lost time, the city is a poorer place without Sam's and people like Sam Sniderman.

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