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Ryerson buys time for decision on Sam’s signs

Tags: News
The Sam the Record Man sign adorned the front of the Yonge-Dundas store [Wikimedia Commons photo]

TORONTO — The decision on the future of two massive spinning records that used to adorn Sam the Record Man’s Yonge Street frontage in downtown Toronto has been put off for a year.

Last week, the Toronto and East York Community Council agreed to give Ryerson University extra time to come up with a plan for the two-storey neon-lit signs.

The record-selling business that would become Sam the Record Man was founded by Sam Sniderman in 1937. The flashy neon signs at the centre of the issue were installed in 1961 and to many became iconic and synonymous with the bustle and excitement of Yonge Street.

Ryerson acquired the signs when it purchased the Sam the Record Man property in 2008. At the time, Toronto City Council was considering designating the property, on Yonge just north of Dundas Street, under the Ontario Heritage Act. As a condition of purchase, Ryerson agreed to store the signs and re-install them when it completed its Student Learning Centre on the site.

In November 2012, Ryerson informed the City of Toronto that it proposed a three-part alternative to remounting the signs. Citing potential environmental concerns over mercury in the neon tubing and a shortage of qualified sign experts, the school proposed an alternative way to commemorate the once-iconic store.

Ryerson suggested creating a replica sign in the sidewalk in front of what used to be the store, as well as a commemorative insert telling the store’s story. It would also launch a website recognizing the significance of the store as part of a tribute to “Music on Yonge Street – celebrating 70 years of Sam’s.”

Ryerson denied cost was a factor, though media reports put the price at restoring the signage at $250,000.

City staff approved Ryerson’s proposal, but opposition grew from a number of sources, including city council. A petition that, as of last week, had garnered more than 1,100 signatures called on the city to hold Ryerson to the terms of its contract.

“The agreement between Toronto and Ryerson University was that they would put the Sam the Record Man sign back up after it was removed for construction,” stated the petition, addressed to city councilors. “Now the city is going to let them out of this deal because Ryerson doesn’t like the aestehtics, feels it will be expensive, and a myriad of other complaints that frankly are not relevant because they are just not our problem.  The only thing that’s relevant is that they were allowed to build at this location if they agreed to put the sign back up. So they should.”

“We’re asking the city to do the absolute bare minimum, and make Ryerson honour the deal they made with the people of Toronto… Ryerson made a legal pledge to us, and now we just want them to honour the deal. End of story.”

Sniderman is remembered as a mentor to many in the Canadian music industry and has been called the Godfather of Canadian Music. He died in 2012 at age 92.

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