Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Death of a Legend

Fire up your turntables and play a sad LP. Sam the Record Man is closing again - and this time probably for good.

Canadian Press reported at 11 pm last night that the flagship Toronto music store will close on June 30, a victim of slow music sales in the new downloading era.

Shopping at Sam's was a rite of passage for Canadian youth in the '60s and '70s, with more than 30 stores across Canada. And founder Sam Sniderman was an industry legend, as famous for creative retailing as he was for supporting Canadian talent.

Then came the 90s, the Internet craze, and the unravelling of the empire. But Sam, now long retired, remains unbowed: when I talked to him a few weeks ago, he was looking forward to a court case where he was hoping to get his own back against the advisers who had recommended bankruptcy in 2001 as the best soution for his company's woes.

Sam's sons, Jason and Bobby, managed to reopen the Yonge Street store in 2002, but things were never quite as zany - or as profitable - in the iTunes era.

Sam was kind enough to read a preview copy of my book, Secrets of Success from Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies. He called it, "An invaluable piece of work." I could say the same thing about his store. And in fact about Sam himself.

The Sniderman brothers, in their announcement, say the store's legacy "will forever endure and perhaps, other opportunities will arise for us to develop the brand in the expanding delivery of music."

I hope so. The Snidermans are not only great entrepreneurs - they are great Canadians.

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