Canada’s oldest record store set to close by the end of the year.

When Wilson and Lee first opened for business in Oshawa, the Great War had only ended five years earlier. Radio was barely a thing. The most popular car in the world was Ford’s Model T. And if you wanted to listen to records, you needed a wind-up Victrola to play fragile 78 RPM records.

And if in 1922 you wanted to buy one of those records, you could go to Wilson and Lee’s record store and find them amongst all the musical instruments.

Over the decades it survived depression, recessions, wars, technological changes (78s, LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and back to vinyl) and countless musical trends. It was an excellent run.

Sadly, after 97 years, the store is about to close. The property at 87 Simcoe Street North has been sold to the Holiday Inn next door and brothers Bill (who has worked at the store for 67 years) and Dave (the new guy at 52 years) Wilson have decided to shut things down.

But not quite yet. It will be business as usual until the end of November. After that, there will be a massive inventory clearance that should take things to Christmas.

The store was founded by William George Wilson, the brothers’ grandfather, a former piano tuner and refurbisher. When he needed a place to sell his used pianos, he opened a store on Simcoe Street.

When Grandpa William retired, his son, also named William, took over. His son, Bill, began in the store while he was in high school.

Ninety-seven years is a long time for any store to be in business, let alone a music store. So who holds the record (sorry) for the oldest music store on the planet? That would be Spillers Records in Cardiff, Wales. It’s been around since 1894.

Read more here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Canada’s oldest record store set to close by the end of the year.

  • September 13, 2019 at 3:13 pm
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    I saw this news on Facebook recently in the Vintage Oshawa Group. I wasn’t aware that Wilson & Lee was Canada’s oldest record store but I knew well when I was young. Soon after I was born in Toronto, we moved to Oshawa and my dad soon got a jazz radio show on CKLB, and what a great time to be spinning jazz. He was there around 1958 to 1962 during the seminal hard bop era. After he went back to selling industrial supplies and starting his own company with a business partner, he continued to work on weekends deejaying weddings, parties and other events. I started to help him when I was in high school pulling and spinning the records while he did all the talking. During the 1960s until he passed away in 1993, he spent a small fortune at Wilson & Lee on Simcoe Street. I spent a lot of money there until Star Records opened its doors in 1974. I recall buying the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album the day Wilson & Lee got it and nearly getting hit by lightning while walking home. Thanks for the story Alan, cheers mbyaudible

    Reply
  • September 13, 2019 at 3:47 pm
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    “Record Store” is a bit of a stretch. Music Store is much more accurate… I stopped in for a pack of guitar strings (either L&M was closed, or I was nearby on foot) and a $5 pack of Ernie Balls were $12, so I don’t imagine the close-out sale will offer much for bargains… All the best to them after so many years in business. They deserve some time off. Cheers!

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