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rob magazine

I still remember the day I bought my first record—Aerosmith’s Pump. Judge if you will, but it was 1989, I’d just turned 13, and I had a raging crush on Joe Perry. I rushed home from Music World, tore off the plastic wrap and gently placed it on my parents’ Technics turntable. It wasn’t long before CDs became the dominant source of tunes, but for Gen Xers, music stores remained the centre of teenage life. It’s no wonder they served as a setting for so many of the movies that shaped that generation: Empire Records, Pretty in Pink, High Fidelity.

But as music went digital, most of those shops disappeared. No more Music World and Sam the Record Man. And no more HMV, once the biggest chain in the country. That’s where our cover subject, Doug Putman, comes in. In 2017, the Hamiltonian bought what was left of HMV in Canada, determined to revive the music-store experience. Now he operates 70 shops under the Sunrise Records banner, plus 110 HMVs in the U.K. Putman has bet big on vinyl—sales grew by 8% in 2021—and a new generation is learning to love the crackle and pop of records (or at least the joy of buying an album of songs meant to be played together, in a particular order). To read about how Putman amassed a portfolio of companies that employ 20,000 and generate billions in sales—from music, toys, tea and more—check out “I will revive,” by Jason Kirby, on page 44.

Dawn Calleja, editor of ROB Magazine.Steph Martyniuk/The Globe and Mail

It’s not just Jason’s story that has me feeling nostalgic. I’d hoped we’d be back in the office in time for my first issue as editor-in-chief. (James Cowan has moved to the newspaper, where he’s leading our enhanced investing and personal finance coverage.) In the Before Times, I spent more hours with the magazine team than with my own kids. We’d put in long days yelling over cubicles and huddling around our communal table, piled high with printouts and old issues and takeout boxes. But we’ve barely seen each other in real life since March 2020. Things started to look up in late fall, but then came Omicron, which means I edited this issue in my dining room (where this photo was taken), while my children “learned” virtually beside me.

We were beset by COVID-related problems. Reporters were burned out after a relentless two-year news cycle. PR people fretted over how we would safely interview and photograph executives. One fully vaxxed photographer tested positive just before a shoot with Patricia Gauthier, the head of vaccine maker Moderna Canada, necessitating a last-second switch. A few days before going to press, we had to reschedule our photo shoot with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland because anti-vaxxers took over downtown Ottawa.

In the end, I hope this issue will help you find some optimism amid the gloom in our annual Changemakers package (page 27), learn what it takes to build a $2-billion-a-year retail brand with a cult-like following (“High of the Tiger,” page 52) and gain some insight into Freeland’s pandemic recovery plan (“Minister of Everything,” page 8).

By the way, I still have that Pump album. And I can still sing every word.

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