Sam the Record Man – Once Yonge Street’s Music Store Mecca

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1971 - Sam the Record Man was once located at 347 Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
1971 – Sam the Record Man was once located at 347 Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 3, Item 25)

Sam the Record Man was located at 347 Yonge St (at Gould St on the northeast corner) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. With its iconic sign, it was a must-visit store for everyone who loved music.

How It All Began

In 1937, Sam Sniderman began selling records from his family’s business, Sniderman’s Radio Sales & Service Ltd, at 714 College St. In 1959, the shop moved to 259 Yonge St, and two years later, the music store moved to its historic location at 347 Yonge St.

Sam the Record Man

The shop was a huge attraction for music lovers and musicians. It was on a strip of Yonge St, home to other music stores like A & A Books & Records, Sunrise, Vinyl Museum, Record Bar, Millwheel and Music World.

The store had a vast selection, and Sam and his staff were very knowledgeable. No song was too obscure. Customers could go into the shop and mention a few words of a song or hum a few bars, and the staff would know it. There were no apps around then, just excellent customer service.

People would line up in the middle of the night for album releases. Their annual Boxing Day sale drew crowds from Toronto and beyond.

The Perfect Fit

This strip of Yonge Street was also lined with popular entertainment venues like the Colonial Tavern, Friar’s Tavern, Le Coq d’Or and Steele’s Tavern. Sam the Record Man was a perfect match in the area.

Between 1978 and 1980 - Looking southeast from Elm St towards Yonge St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Notice Sam the Record Man, Thrifty's and the Papaya Hut on Yonge St
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking southeast from Elm St towards Yonge St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Notice Sam the Record Man, Thrifty’s and the Papaya Hut on Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 307, Item 12)

Mr Sniderman promoted many Canadian musicians, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, and Stompin’ Tom Connors. He also placed music from new Canadian talent in prime locations of the store to give them the spotlight.

The Most Iconic Symbol of Yonge Street

That incredible sign. The Markle Brothers designed the neon, spinning record in 1969/1970. Standing 7.5 m wide and 8 m high, it replaced a neon sign that indicated weather conditions. When the shop next door closed, once Steele’s Tavern and later Thrifty’s, Sam took it over. In 1987, the second spinning disc and the word “SAM” were added above each sign.

The flagship Yonge St store grew to take over the northeast corner of Yonge and Gould Sts.

Closing the Legendary Store

In its heyday, there were over 140 locations across the country. The big box stores and the rise in popularity of downloadable songs meant the demand for CDs and albums was declining. Unable to compete, the Toronto landmark closed at the end of June 2007. There’s still one Sam the Record Man shop in Belleville.

The Brilliant Neon Signs Shine Again

2019 - Sam the Record Man's twin neon spinning record signs are located atop a building at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square)
2019 – Sam the Record Man’s twin neon spinning record signs are located atop a building at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square)

In 2007, Ryerson University purchased the parcel of land stretching from 345 to 353 Yonge St. This area was known for being home to iconic businesses, including Sam the Record Man and A & A’s. As part of the deal, the university agreed to restore and reinstall Sam’s famous twin neon spinning record signs, which had been an enduring feature of the area for decades.

Over the next couple of years, the buildings in this area were gradually torn down, and in 2015, Ryerson Univerity (today, the Toronto Metropolitan University) Student Centre opened at the site.

Today, the restored Sam’s neon spinning record signs, perched atop a building at 277 Victoria St, are once again lighting up the area. From their vantage point, they overlook Sankofa Square, which was formerly known as Yonge-Dundas Square.

Did You Know?

  • In 1961, Sam Sniderman paid $140,000 for the building at 347 Yonge St.
  • During his lifetime, Sam Sniderman received many awards and honours, including the Order of Canada (1976), an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Commerce) from Ryerson University (1997) and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (1999).
  • The company filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The store closed briefly and reopened in 2002 with Sam’s two sons operating the new business.
  • During its last days in 2007, Sam’s held a memorabilia auction. Some items sold included a neon marquee, signed pictures, platinum records and autographed drywall (by Bruce Springsteen and ZZ Top).
  • Sam passed away in 2012 at the age of 92.
  • In 1984, Robert (Bobby) Sniderman, Sam’s son, purchased one of Toronto’s legacy restaurants, The Senator. Located at 249 Victoria St, the restaurant has been operating since the late 1920s, originally opening as Busy Bee Lunch. The Senator is a 1940s-style diner with classic comfort dishes and also features its own beautiful neon sign.

Sam the Record Man Photos

June 23, 1971 - Sam the Record Man was once located at 347 Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
June 23, 1971 – Sam the Record Man was once located at 347 Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 3, Item 25)
2019 - Sam the Record Man's twin neon spinning record signs are located atop a building at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square)
2019 – Sam the Record Man’s twin neon spinning record signs are located atop a building at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square)
Between 1985 and 1990 - Stompin' Tom Connors and Sam Sniderman (Photo courtesy of © Barry Roden)
Between 1985 and 1990 – Stompin’ Tom Connors and Sam Sniderman (Photo courtesy of © Barry Roden)
Between 1978 and 1980 - Looking southeast from Elm St towards Yonge St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Notice Sam the Record Man, Thrifty's and the Papaya Hut on Yonge St
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking southeast from Elm St towards Yonge St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Notice Sam the Record Man, Thrifty’s and the Papaya Hut on Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 307, Item 12)
2021 - Sam the Record Man shopping bags and memorabilia (photo taken at Friar's Music Museum)
2021 – Sam the Record Man shopping bags and memorabilia (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
Between 1970 and 1972 - Sam the Record Man and Steele's Tavern next door on Yonge St on the east side north of Gould St
Between 1970 and 1972 – Sam the Record Man and Steele’s Tavern next door on Yonge St on the east side north of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 312, Item 51)
1980s - Sam the Record Man at Yonge St and Gould St
1980s – Sam the Record Man at Yonge St and Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 19, Item 9)
August 17, 1971 – Looking northeast towards crowds at the Yonge Street pedestrian mall, with Sam the Record Man, Steele's Tavern, A & A Books & Records and Zanzibar Tavern in the background
August 17, 1971 – Looking northeast towards crowds at the Yonge Street pedestrian mall, with Sam the Record Man, Steele’s Tavern, A & A Books & Records and Zanzibar Tavern in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 5, Item 12)
Circa 1993 - An aerial view of Yonge St between Gerrard St E and Gould St. In the photo's lower right corner, notice Sam the Record Man, A & A Records & Tapes and in the white building next to A & A's was Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum. The large building behind the block of Yonge St shops is Ryerson Polytechnic University, today known as Toronto Metropolitan University
Circa 1993 – An aerial view of Yonge St between Gerrard St E and Gould St. In the photo’s lower right corner, notice Sam the Record Man, A & A Records & Tapes and in the white building next to A & A’s was Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum. The large building behind the block of Yonge St shops is Ryerson Polytechnic University, today known as Toronto Metropolitan University (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 48, Item 1)
1967 - Sam the Record Man and Steele's Tavern next door on Yonge St north of Gould St
1967 – Sam the Record Man and Steele’s Tavern next door on Yonge St north of Gould St (Toronto Public Library RA35-1)
2021 - Sam the Record Man recording tape and memorabilia
2021 – Sam the Record Man recording tape and memorabilia (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking northeast on Yonge St towards Gould St. Notice Music World on the southeast corner and Sam the Record Man and A & A Records & Tapes north of Gould St
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking northeast on Yonge St towards Gould St. Notice Music World on the southeast corner and Sam the Record Man and A & A Records & Tapes north of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 306, Item 1)
2021 - Ryerson University (today Toronto Metropolitan University) purchased the property in 2008 and agreed to restore and re-install Sam the Record Man's signs. The spinning record signs are located at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square)
2021 – Ryerson University (today Toronto Metropolitan University) purchased the property in 2008 and agreed to restore and re-install Sam the Record Man’s signs. The spinning record signs are located at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square (as of December 14, 2023, known as Sankofa Square)
Circa 1960 - Display of Bing Crosby albums at Sam the Record Man
Circa 1960 – Display of Bing Crosby albums at Sam the Record Man (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 503)
2021 - Sam the Record Man and Stompin' Tom Connors decal
2021 – Sam the Record Man and Stompin’ Tom Connors decal (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
1980s - Looking east from Elm St towards Yonge St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. The archive photo shows three record stores, from right to left: Sam the Record Man, A & A Records & Tapes and in the white building next to A & A's was Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum. The car parked in the foreground is a Citroën SM
1980s – Looking east from Elm St towards Yonge St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. The archive photo shows three record stores, from right to left: Sam the Record Man, A & A Records & Tapes and in the white building next to A & A’s was Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum. The car parked in the foreground is a Citroën SM (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 20, Item 23)
2023 - Looking towards the east side of Yonge St from Elm St, where Sam the Record Man, A & A Records & Tapes and Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum were once located
2023 – Looking towards the east side of Yonge St from Elm St, where Sam the Record Man, A & A Records & Tapes and Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum were once located
2021 - Sam the Record Man
2021 – Sam the Record Man (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
1980s - Looking west from Gould St towards Fran's Restaurant and Funland on Yonge St. Notice Sam the Tape Man on Gould St
1980s – Looking west from Gould St towards Fran’s Restaurant and Funland on Yonge St. Notice Sam the Tape Man on Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 19, Item 28)
2022 - Artwork by myyummyart@gmail.com on a utility box on Mutual St just north of Gerrard St E commemorating A & A Records, Sam the Record Man, and the Yellow Door at 6 St Joseph St
2022 – Artwork by myyummyart@gmail.com on a utility box on Mutual St just north of Gerrard St E commemorating A & A Records, Sam the Record Man, and the Yellow Door at 6 St Joseph St
Between 1970 and 1972 - Looking north up Yonge St from Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Notice Sam the Record Man, A & A Books & Records, Zanzibar Tavern, and the Rio Theatre on the right side of the archive photo. Zanzibar Tavern is still there today
Between 1970 and 1972 – Looking north up Yonge St from Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Notice Sam the Record Man, A & A Books & Records, Zanzibar Tavern, and the Rio Theatre on the right side of the archive photo. Zanzibar Tavern is still there today (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 312, Item 61)
2022 - Looking north up Yonge St from Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Sam the Record Man was once located on property now home to Toronto Metropolitan University Student Learning Centre (in the right foreground)
2022 – Looking north up Yonge St from Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. Sam the Record Man was once located on property now home to Toronto Metropolitan University Student Learning Centre (in the right foreground)
Between 1983 and 1992 - Looking northwest towards an aerial view of Gould St and Yonge St
Between 1983 and 1992 – Looking northwest towards an aerial view of Gould St and Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 396, Item 1)
1980s - Chess tables in front of Sam the Record Man on Gould St just east of Yonge St
1980s – Chess tables in front of Sam the Record Man on Gould St just east of Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 19, Item 30)
2021 - Sam the Record Man employee name tag
2021 – Sam the Record Man employee name tag (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
March 1991 - Looking southeast towards the Zanzibar Tavern, Ford Discount Pharmacy, Star House Chinese Restaurant, Panzerotto & Pizza Original, Caribbean Roti Delight, Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum, A & A Records & Tapes and Sam the Record Man on Yonge St. Zanzibar Tavern is still there today
March 1991 – Looking southeast towards the Zanzibar Tavern, Ford Discount Pharmacy, Star House Chinese Restaurant, Panzerotto & Pizza Original, Caribbean Roti Delight, Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum, A & A Records & Tapes and Sam the Record Man on Yonge St. Zanzibar Tavern is still there today (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, ID 197)
2022 - Looking southeast along Yonge St between Gerrard St and Gould St
2022 – Looking southeast along Yonge St between Gerrard St and Gould St
Between 1979 and 1981 – Looking northeast from Yonge St and Gould St towards CIBC, Sam the Record Man and A & A Records & Tapes
Between 1979 and 1981 – Looking northeast from Yonge St and Gould St towards CIBC, Sam the Record Man and A & A Records & Tapes (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 614, Item 26)
2022 - The property Sam the Record Man once occupied at Yonge St and Gould St is now home to the Toronto Metropolitan University Student Learning Centre
2022 – The property Sam the Record Man once occupied at Yonge St and Gould St is now home to the Toronto Metropolitan University Student Learning Centre
2007 - Sam the Record Man on the east side of Yonge St, just north of Gould St
2007 – Sam the Record Man on the east side of Yonge St, just north of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1581, Series 2196, Item 36, Peter MacCallum – photographer)
2007 - Future Shop and Sam the Record Man awaiting demolition on Yonge St, just north of Gould St
2007 – Future Shop and Sam the Record Man awaiting demolition on Yonge St, just north of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1581, Series 2196, Item 37, Peter MacCallum – photographer)
June 22, 2007 - Sam the Record Man on Yonge St in Toronto
June 22, 2007 – Sam the Record Man on Yonge St in Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2401, Item 9)
June 22, 2007 - Looking northeast towards Sam, the Record Man, once located at Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
June 22, 2007 – Looking northeast towards Sam, the Record Man, once located at Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2401, Item 4)
June 22, 2007 - Sam the Record Man, once located at Yonge St and Gould St in Toronto
June 22, 2007 – Sam the Record Man, once located at Yonge St and Gould St in Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2401, Item 8)
June 22, 2007 - Sam the Record Man on Yonge St in Toronto
June 22, 2007 – Sam the Record Man on Yonge St in Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2401, Item 12)
June 22, 2007- Looking northeast towards Sam the Record Man, once located at Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto
June 22, 2007 – Looking northeast towards Sam the Record Man, once located at Yonge St and Gould St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2401, Item 6)
2008 - Demolition of Sam the Record Man on Yonge St, just north of Gould St
2008 – Demolition of Sam the Record Man on Yonge St, just north of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1581, Series 2196, Item 38, Peter MacCallum – photographer)
July 2009 - Demolition of buildings that were once home to Sam the Record Man and A & A Records & Tapes on Yonge St, opposite Elm St. Today, the Toronto Metropolitan University Student Learning Centre is located at the site
July 2009 – Demolition of buildings that were once home to Sam the Record Man and A & A Records & Tapes on Yonge St, opposite Elm St. Today, the Toronto Metropolitan University Student Learning Centre is located at the site (Google Maps)
2010 - Looking southeast from Yonge St and Elm St towards the demolition of Sam the Record Man buildings
2010 – Looking southeast from Yonge St and Elm St towards the demolition of Sam the Record Man buildings (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1581, Series 2196, Item 40, Peter MacCallum – photographer)
2022 - Sam the Record Man spinning record signs are located at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square
2022 – Sam the Record Man spinning record signs are located at 277 Victoria St, overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square
1980s - An artist's conception looking northeast along Yonge St from Gould St
1980s – An artist’s conception looking northeast along Yonge St from Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 19, Item 1)
2022 - The Sniderman family operated their original car radio installation and appliance store from this location at 714 College St in 1937. Sam Sniderman began selling records from the shop here, and this was the beginning of Sam the Record Man
2022 – The Sniderman family operated their original car radio installation and appliance store from this location at 714 College St in 1937. Sam Sniderman began selling records from the shop here, and this was the beginning of Sam the Record Man
2022 – The plaque reads:  

Sniderman's Music Hall 
714 College Street

"This is the site where the Sniderman family opened their original car radio installation and appliance store in 1937. Sam Sniderman began selling records here, which was the beginning of "Sam the Record Man". In 1961, Sam and his brother, Sid, moved the store to Yonge Street, where it remains today as the most famous well-known record store in Canada." 

Toronto, June 15, 2005 
The plaque is embedded in the sidewalk at 714 College St
2022 – The plaque reads:

Sniderman’s Music Hall
714 College Street

“This is the site where the Sniderman family opened their original car radio installation and appliance store in 1937. Sam Sniderman began selling records here, which was the beginning of “Sam the Record Man”. In 1961, Sam and his brother, Sid, moved the store to Yonge Street, where it remains today as the most famous well-known record store in Canada.”

Toronto, June 15, 2005
The plaque is embedded in the sidewalk at 714 College St
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