GETTING MORE TALE #526: Location, Location, Location
I worked at many Record Store locations over the years, often temporarily for training and managing. Some of them I spent a few days at, others were several weeks or months in total. Each one had its own flavour and clientele. While experiences and mileage may vary, here are some memories of some favourite locations (all in Ontario, Canada).
The store in Cambridge was our first to carry movies, initially in VHS format. It was a lot of fun working there from time to time, buying and selling used movies. There was always something I wanted for my collection, and it broke up the monotony of seeing nothing but CDs every day.
Cambridge was also interesting because we used to get a number of people coming in just to ask where the strip club was. “It used to be around here!” I don’t know why the dudes looking for the strip club kept stopping in the Record Store (as opposed to the Tim Hortons or a gas station or anywhere else), but they did indeed used to ask.
Some of the customers in Cambridge were…well, let’s just say they were not all our best and brightest. T-Rev managed that store, and I took over temporarily when he was on road trips elsewhere setting up new stores. The customers there wore me down more than anywhere else. Especially when they came in to sell, which was frequently. Cambridge bought a lot of stock. If the customer wasn’t happy with my offer, they’d ask when the “regular guy” would be back. Maddening since I was more generous than a lot of other folks.
There was one customer in Cambridge who hated selling to me, he always asked where “the regular guy” was. He asked my name and I told him it was Sanchez. When T-Rev came back, we had a laugh over the employee named “Sanchez” who was apparently low-balling this customer for his dance CDs.
The store I worked at in Hamilton was pretty quiet most of the time. There was a lunch time rush when kids from the nearby highschool would come in to listen to and occasionally buy CDs. Given Steeltown’s reputation, I was pleasantly surprised to find the kids I dealt with to be polite and friendly, more than I was used to seeing. The adults weren’t always so friendly, but no more or less than any of the other stores I worked in. Hamilton was a shitty place to drive (confusing one-way streets), but I didn’t mind working there at all.
I worked in three different stores in the Kitchener area. One of the other guys there used to refer to Kitchener as a “ham & egger” town, a phrase I never heard before. A lot of blue collar customers. It was still a step up from Cambridge, depending on which Kitchener location I was working in.
I’ve said many times that my favourite store was the original one, in a small mall in Kitchener. It was our only mall store ever. It was a special place to work. It was tiny and compact. It could get really busy on the weekends. There were a lot of regular customers, more than I remember elsewhere, probably due to the fact we were in a mall. There was a familiarity – I knew them, and they knew me. When I was eventually given a larger store elsewhere to manager, I missed the faces I would see on a regular basis at the mall.
I also missed the “unique” individuals you’d meet at the mall store. Malls have a whole ecosystem of life forms, unlike others in the outside world. There was Johnny Walker, so named because every day he would walk the circuit around the mall, talking to himself, all day. One day, something peculiar happened. He came in, stopped talking to himself, and bought a tape. He paid for his cassette and then resumed walking and talking to himself again. I only saw that happen once. There was Butts, the guy who would dig through ashtrays looking for cigarette butts. Let’s not forget Trevor the Security Guard, and the drunks at the restaurant next door. It was a blast! I didn’t care for the mallrats, but they were a minor annoyance.
I did not like working on Oakville, as was discussed in Record Store Tales Part 16: Travelling Man. Many of those customers were snooty; just too good for you. They felt entitled to park in the fire lane, because they were more important than you. Read the Oakville tale for the misery that was working there.
More than any other location, I may have resented Mississauga the most. It was a shit location. There was nothing of any value around. There was a health products store, but nowhere to buy a snack or a lunch. There was no foot traffic. Across the street was an empty field. It was a dead store from the day it opened. I invested myself deeply in my work. There are many things in life that can crush your soul. One of them is working hard at something (training employees, helping set up a store) and seeing it come up to nothing. That was Mississauga. In the used CD business, you depend on customers bringing in good stuff for you to re-sell. Mississauga provided very little good stuff.
There were more, all with tales of their own. These however were five of the most memorable, each for its own reasons. While a change of scenery is nice once in a while, there is nothing better than working in a location you love.