Sam Sniderman | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Sam Sniderman

Sam (Samuel) Sniderman, record retailer, patron (born 15 June 1920 in Toronto, ON; died 23 September 2012 in Toronto). Honorary D COMM (Ryerson) 1997, honorary LL D (PEI) 2003.
Sam Sniderman
Sam Sniderman, 1960s (courtesy CBC Archives).

The family business, Sniderman Radio Sales and Service, was established in Toronto on College Street in 1929 by Sam Sniderman's brother Sidney. Sam Sniderman introduced the sale of records in 1937, and eventually this became the backbone of the business. In 1959 a second outlet was opened in a Yonge Street furniture store. In 1961 the two outlets were consolidated as Sam the Record Man on downtown Yonge Street.

In 1969 a national Sam the Record Man franchise chain was established, with a wholly owned subsidiary, Roblan Distributors Ltd (Sniderman president, his sons Robert and Jason in succession vice-president, and Sidney Sniderman secretary-treasurer), set up as its supplier. At its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, approximately 137 'Sam's' stores were in operation under the direction of Jason Sniderman, accounting for an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of the national retail record business. The number of stores in the chain dwindled by the late 1990s. Sam Sniderman retired in 2000; the business went bankrupt the following year and most of its stores closed. The Yonge Street store was reopened in 2002, but closed permanently 30 Jun 2007.

Support for Canadian Recordings

A colourful personality, Sniderman gave substantial support to the Canadian music industry by his enthusiasm and by the exposure his stores provided for records by Canadians. With Eleanor Koldofsky, he made possible the recordings archive at the Faculty of Music Library, University of Toronto, in 1963, donating many recordings and arranging for the donation or acquisition of many others. (By 2003, the archive held 175,000 items, and in 2005 Sam made a further $50,000 donation to the Sniderman Music Archives to honour his son Stephen who had died in 1959.) In 1977 he became a member of the CNE Grandstand attractions committee, and in the late 1980s spearheaded efforts to restore the CNE's Music Building. He was a member or director of CARAS, the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee, the Mariposa Advisory committee, the East Coast Music Association, and many other arts organizations. Sniderman was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1976 and received many other awards and tributes for his contribution to Canadian music, including the 1989 (Juno) Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame in 1997, and was honoured with the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for voluntarism in 1999, and an industry builder award from the East Coast Music Association in 2001. A recording of Canadian music, "A Tribute to Sam Sniderman" (1988), celebrated his 50th year in business. Sniderman was also featured on CBC TV's Life and Times.

See alsoToronto Feature: Yonge and Edward St.

Suggested Reading

Bidini, Dave. The Best Game You Can Name (2006); Filey, Mike. Toronto Sketches 10: "The Way We Were" (2010); Cohn, Ronald and Jesse Russell. Sam The Record Man (2012); Calamar, Gary and Phil Gallo and Peter Buck. Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again (2012); Sutherland, Sam. Perfect Youth -The Birth of Canadian Punk (2012)