After months on life support, HMV died today. The Canadian patient was 26 years old.
The flagship store at 333 Yonge Street closed its doors at 6 pm Friday, bringing an end to an era when the blocks between Queen Street and Gerrard were packed with record stores. In the late 90s, competition along that strip was fierce as HMV, Tower, Sam the Record Man, A&A, Music World, Sunrise and a series of smaller retailers fought for business. As a result, we Torontonians enjoyed some of the lowest CD prices in the country. I must have spent thousands over the years.
That’s all gone now.
I’ll remember 333 Yonge for many things:
- The grand opening in 1989, revealing a four-level record store that was so big it required an escalator. Imagine!
- HMV’s return policy. If you didn’t like a CD, you could exchange it for something else.
- The frequent buyer program. Buy 10 CDs, get the 11th free.
- The day they introduced shopping baskets, making it easier to juggle all those CDs on the way to the cash.
- The infomercials I filmed for HMV that took all night to complete.
- Lining up for Monday nights to be among the first to buy the new release from a big-name artist at 12:01 am Tuesday. You made some serious friends with like-minded fan(atics) in line.
- HMV Radio (or whatever it was called) that featured live in-store DJs spinning the latest tunes.
- All the autograph sessions.
- The listening stations, something that pretty much no one had when HMV moved into the country.
- The dedicated sections for alternative, punk and metal. They were always well stocked.
- The respect given to jazz and classical music.
- Appearances by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Ramones, Green Day (remember the show in the alley?), Guns N’ Roses and so many others. (I’m choosing not to remember the times when Mariah Carey and the Backstreet Boys showed up,)
- Nick, Saundra, Tash, Ann and all the people at head office who were all a joy to work with.
I know nothing ever stays the same. And I really want Sunrise Records–they’re moving into 99 HMV locations, but not 333 Yonge–to be successful as Canada’s next national music retail chain. But I’m gonna miss HMV.
More on the closing of that location at the Toronto Star.