For Torontonians of a certain vintage, Sam Sniderman—who passed away yesterday at age 92—is as integral a part of this country’s formative musical history as Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and Geddy Lee. Upon opening his first Sam the Record Man shop in the 1950s, Sniderman always put a friendly local face onto what would become a national retail chain, one whose expansion helped facilitate the growth of our domestic music industry from the 1960s onward, and earned Sniderman Order of Canada honours in 1976. But while the post-millennial decline of the industry led to the chain’s gradual dissolution, Sniderman will forever be associated with the corner of Yonge and Gould, where his flagship store—and signature neon-record sign—lit up the strip from 1961 up to its closure in 2007; the store’s famed Boxing Day sales were as much of a Toronto holiday tradition as Christmas itself.
In 2008, the Sam’s site was sold to Ryerson University, who levelled the building to make way for a student centre, with an as-yet-unfulfilled promise to incorporate the Sam’s sign into the new design. While we wait for Ryerson to make good on its word, we remember the life and legacy of Toronto’s most famous record-store clerk through these snapshots of his iconic store; click on the photo above to launch the gallery.