5 Toronto Stores We Mourn the Loss of

Gone but not forgotten

Applaud the convenience of online shopping and one-stop department stores all you like, but targeted purchase recommendations and self-checkouts can’t match the passion and intuition of a quality shop clerk, and our streets would be pretty boring if they were all coffee shops and dollar stores. This list is in praise of iconic Toronto shops that struck out against rising rents and the march of commercial gentrification.

Sam the Record Man


(Photo by SimonP via Wikimedia Commons)

Sam and Sidney Sniderman founded Sam the Record Man as a chain franchise in 1937, and by 1982, its ads boasted “140 locations, coast to coast.” After tough competition and the proliferation of music downloading forced the company to declare bankruptcy and close most of its stores in 2001, Sam’s sons Jason and Bobby Sniderman reopened the chain’s flagship Yonge and Gould Street store and 11 other franchise locations in 2002. But in 2007, they announced the flagship location would be shuttered for good, citing “the increasing impact of technology on the record industry.” As the wisdom of the labels at the centre of the store’s iconic neon records advised, that’s entertainment.


World’s Biggest Bookstore


(Photo by SimonP via Wikimedia Commons)

Opened in 1980 by Coles founders Carl and Jack Cole after they sold their brand in 1976, World’s Biggest Bookstore was 17 miles of shelves and 64,000 square feet of box retail space converted from a 64-lane bowling alley. It wasn’t actually the world’s biggest bookstore, but the novelty wasn’t lost on shelf stuffers or tourists, and in Short Circuit 2, even Johnny 5 couldn’t resist the implied prospect.

The store was demolished in November 2014 to make way for Lifetime Developments’ “Restaurant Row” project.

Hits and Misses Records

One look at the aped Crass logo on Pete Genest’s Hits and Misses storefront and you understood the niche: this shop was a haven for punks, rife with 7-inches and rare wax. Curiously situated next door to former Youth Youth Youth vocalist and noted curmudgeon Brian Taylor’s Rotate This, it unfortunately proved a lesson in niche markets, too, and in 2012, Genest had to close his shop after multiple failures to pay the rent.

European Quality Meats and Sausages


(Photo via foodpages.ca)

Opened in 1959 by Morris Leider, a Polish Holocaust survivor, this shop was a marker of Jewish resilience. Once known as “the Jewish Market,” the population that defined Kensington Market in the early 20th century mostly abandoned the neighbourhood following the end of WWII, but Leider’s business moved in at the height of immigrant influx from the Caribbean and East Asia. Despite the neighbourhood’s continued transitional nature, it thrived on Baldwin Street, eventually opening locations in Etobicoke and Brampton. It closed in 2012, citing rising downtown property values and a demographic shift.

Marty Millionaire


(Photo via booledozer via Wikimedia Commons)

“The Honest Ed’s of furniture,” Marty Millionaire was a go-to spot for quality used furniture for TV & film productions – a megastore with an inventory that sprawled throughout four floors and 40,000 square feet, including the basement. Opened in 1968, after 36 years of business, it was forced to close its space at Parliament and Queen Street E. in 2014, citing doubled taxes and insurance as well as difficulty maneuvering fire insurance.

(Main Photo via Ian Muttoo via Wikimedia Commons)