GETTING MORE TALE #531: The More Things Change…
The first record store I worked in no longer exists. It closed (moved actually) in 1996, but even the physical location it was in has gone. It was tucked away in a mall, but that unit was torn up and enlarged and made into a discount store.
That entire mall has changed completely in the last 20 years. I spent a lot of years in that mall as a kid, teen and young adult. Before the record store opened in ’91, I would mostly shop at the Zellers store. Zellers wasn’t bad. They carried 7″ singles, and that is the very store about which Record Store Tales Part 4: A Word About B-Sides was written. The fact that they even had singles made my early music collection much more interesting. Once I even spied a very rare Def Leppard promotional cassette called Soundtrack to the Video Historia. It was exactly that — a cassette version of all the songs on Leppard’s Historia home video. I assumed it would have the rare video mix of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and I wanted it. But they wouldn’t sell it to me, even though it appeared in their flyer that week. Whoops.
During my highschool years, the mall even had an A&A Records & Tapes. A&A closed up shop nationwide in 1990-91 (much sooner in our mall). Now Zellers is gone too (turned into a Walmart) and the grocery store Zehrs has grown supersized. My first ever job was at the Zehrs store. Now I can’t find my way around it; it’s too huge. Trying to find a box of crackers takes me 15 minutes. I have so much history with that mall. My dad worked there before I did. Amazingly, the bank at which he used to work is still open, though completely changed and enlarged. His old office is now just part of the general reception area. The old vault, which my dad used to let me into when we visited, is also long gone.
When we were really young, my mom, sister and I went to visit my dad at the bank regularly. We liked playing with the calculator and his phone. My sister enjoyed sitting in his big chair. Within reach of her tiny hands was the silent alarm, hidden under his desk. She found it, and decided to try it out and see what it did. Nothing! Nothing at all. We left and headed home, while my dad continued work. A few minutes after we departed, in rolled a squad of cops responding to the silent alarm! My dad had no idea, but he figured it out in short order.
Needless to say, I grew up with that mall as a second home. When I was in grade school, it was basically right next door. I knew every inch of it, at least the way it used to be. The Baskin Robbins – long gone. Little Short Stop where I bought all my comics, candy and Star Wars cards — gone. The sole restaurant — gone. Black’s Photography – gone. Radio Shack – also gone. Entire wings of the mall don’t exist anymore, swallowed up by other stores. Nothing decent moved in to replace them. Walmart took over the skeleton of Zellers and the grocery store expanded. Everything else was taken up by crap discount stores of questionable value. Nobody shops there anymore. The mall is dead. It used to be infested with mall rats. Now you couldn’t find a teenager within 100 meters of that place.
The second record store I worked in was also in Kitchener, but not in a mall. It was in a strip plaza. That strip plaza has also completely changed over the last 20 years. When we first moved in there, they had a coffee shop and a bank. The coffee shop was gone within the first year and the bank a few years later. There were two gigantic gift and craft shops – both gone. There was a dollar store where we could pop in and buy a bag of chips – gone. “Cheese chips” was our thing at that location. It was a new flavour to us, cheddar cheese. We bought a lot of cheese chips from that store.
That plaza doesn’t even look the same anymore. Today, most of the stores have been bulldozed, including my old record store. However they moved down a little ways; not too far for the customers. These stores were torn down to make way for a new grocery store. Quite a shock, to see my old store reduced to rubble. There was nothing but concrete shambles where I spent every weekday for many years not so long ago! A strange sight to behold. So much happened on that little patch of rubble! Half of Record Store Tales came from that destruction zone.
I think it would be fascinating to take a look at these places in another 20 years. Will they even exist? Will anyone care? Or am I just another old fogie reminiscing about the “good old days”? You only live once and I’m very happy to have lived where I have.