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Sam's says goodbye to final customer Print-ready version

by Thulasi Srikanthan
Toronto Star
July 2, 2007

Sam's says goodbye to final customer. Last purchase: A 10-pack of VHS tapes. Last song: John Lennon

Bobby Sniderman sits in the middle of his empty auction room, blinking away tears.

In 15 minutes, the flagship store his father opened  Sam the Record Man  will say goodbye to its final customer after more than 40 years.

"When the doors close, I am going to be upset," said Sniderman.

Things were booming Saturday, the last day of business at the Toronto landmark. While much of its kitschy memorabilia and one-of-a-kind items was auctioned off at the store Wednesday, bargain hunters came Saturday for the half-price goods and final-day nostalgia. Many came with digital and video cameras, lingering in the aisles and filming the now bare walls, devoid of posters, pictures and gold records.

"Nobody wants to leave," says Elaine Sherman, who has been coming to the record store for the last three decades. She says she came to the store to go through the stacks one last time.

"Most people born in Toronto, they grew up with Sam the Record Man," says Sherman, who was the Record Man's final customer. "This is where it started. It's a landmark."

Her purchases, the last to be made at Sam's, was a set of 10 VHS tapes that included episodes of The Honeymooners and the 1955 B movie Female Jungle starring Jayne Mansfield.

John Gilley, who bought his first record at Sam the Record Man in the early 1970s, remembers taking the bus all the way from Scarborough. "It was the place to buy a record in the city," he said.

Gilley said he didn't come to buy any records but wanted to walk through the place one last time.

"I can't imagine a city without Sam," he said. "This place was special. Buying music won't be the same."

Curtis Bailey worked at the Record Man for 13 years starting in the early 1960s. "There is so much history here," he said. "I remember Joni Mitchell and Buffy Sainte-Marie. They used to come into the store  same with Gordon Lightfoot."

As the end drew closer, Sniderman said the brand might reincarnate itself in "another capacity, another form, not just CDs."

But for now, it's the end.

The final record played? John Lennon singing "I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll. No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go."

The store was still full when the final announcement was made.

"The time has come, we must ask you to leave," a woman said. "It's been a great 70 years, thank you very much."

Applause, and the doors were closed.

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Added to Library on July 2, 2007. (1377)

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