Iconic independent record store Sonic Boom is being forced out of its Bathurst and Bloor location by its landlord, but it won’t go far – it’s moving half a block away into a ground-level space in Honest Ed’s department store.
Sonic Boom owner Jeff Barber called it “incredibly infuriating and frustrating” that the record store, which has been at 512 Bloor St. West for 10 years, wasn’t given an opportunity to extend its lease.
The record store will be replaced by a Dollarama by the end of the year, a spokesman for the dollar-store chain confirmed.
Mr. Barber said having a chain store like that replace his independent business “added insult to injury.” He said he offered to match the new tenant’s rent or perhaps even purchase the building, but was not given the chance.
“After 10 years, I feel, as an excellent tenant, I should have had the opportunity to match, if not beat the offer.” He declined to identify his landlord.
"It's a really cool space," said Sarah Ladouceur, 25. "A big, ugly Dollarama sign is not what I want to see. It's not moving far, but people are pretty bummed."
Lucas Longman, 35, called it “a drag,” but is less worried about the new tenant. “Whatever moves in is irrelevant. It stinks that they're being forced out.”
The store, at about 13,000 square feet is believed to be Canada’s largest independent record store, will be moved into an 11,000-square-feet space in Honest Ed’s, with a storefront facing Bathurst Street.
Sonic Boom’s space allows it to boast an impressive collection of music: Mr. Barber said his stock includes about 50,000 CDs, 25,000 DVDs and 30,000 vinyl. He’s quick to note that the move is not a sales issue; last year, he said, was the best of the store’s 10-year history. “For business reasons and personal pride, I don’t want this to be viewed by the public as a desperate move.”
Russell Lazar, the manager of Honest Ed’s, confirmed the move, which is set to take place at the end of August. “Sonic Boom certainly have a wonderful following and a wonderful business. We’re happy to have them as part of our space in Honest Ed’s.”
“It was important for me to stay in the neighbourhood,” Mr. Barber said. “The folks at Honest Ed’s have been great to deal with. They like the store, and think it’s a positive for the neighbourhood.”
Sonic Boom is a major hub of the Toronto music scene. On top of offering an enormous stock for music buyers, the store sets up huge window displays promoting new records by local artists. And it’s famous for its in-store concerts: a small stage in the corner of its downstairs vinyl section has drawn in bands from the world over, from Monotonix and J Mascis to Sloan. They make it a personal experience, too, offering silk-screened posters for each intimate show.
The store featured prominently in the Toronto-centred movie, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and the graphic-novel series on which it was based. (Honest Ed’s also played a large role in the series.)
Mr. Barber said the new location will be set up to continue having in-store concerts.
Sonic Boom will open a second location in July in Kensington Market, which Mr. Barber calls one of his favourite neighbourhoods in the world. He said it’ll have the same intimate feeling the of current location’s homey basement room, and will host a vinyl collection as well as vintage clothing and furniture. Plans for the Kensington store were already in the works before Mr. Barber learned he would be kicked out of the Bloor Street location.
“We’re expanding,” he said.