For music enthusiasts and vinyl collectors, nothing beats the experience of visiting a record store. Shopping online is convenient, but it’s just not the same as immersing yourself in the racks, flipping through records to find those rare nuggets or the latest artists, and chatting with people who know what they’re talking about and share your passion. Northern Ontario has fantastic record shops, often carrying both the newest records and hard-to-find specialties. Tapes, CDs, collectibles, and all kinds of other pop culture items can be found as well. Read on to learn more about a selection (by no means exhaustive) of these excellent vinyl retailers.
Here are 6 vinyl record shops to check out in Northern Ontario.
best record stores in north bay
Where: 106 Main St W, North Bay, ON P1B 2T5
Why it's a must-visit: Todd Gledhill didn’t intend to found a record shop. Back in 2013, when he was doing pop-up sales, he was only looking to rent a retail space temporarily for a Christmas Walk pop-up. Nine years later, he’s still there, and that location Waxman has become a destination for local record buyers.
Gledhill is behind the Waxman brand, which includes his DJ service, promotions company and even the North Bay Record Show. In the brick-and-mortar shop, you’ll find “all the top artists, everything from Arctic Monkeys to Frank Zappa and anything in between,” not to mention record accessories and more. If you don’t see it in-store or on the website, Waxman can try and find it for you.
“North Bay is kind of in the crossroads on the TransCanada,” Gledhill says. “If you’re heading south, north, east or west you’re gonna come through here. We’ve got a great community with several other shops, and we all kind of work together to make [North Bay] a little record hotspot.”
Where: 429 Main St E, North Bay, ON P1B 1B6
Why it's a must-visit: Music lover Donovan Duguay left a long-time career to start another one – one that reflected his passion for music. Now, after five years, Autumn Records has become known to clientele throughout North Bay and beyond.
Used records can be limited in scope in the north – the fewer people, the fewer record collections being sold – so Duguay’s experience as a collector is an added bonus. “I have a few sources in Europe where I can find exotic things and some of my customers dig that,” he says. “It’s from my personal experience and history I have a lot of connections and resources around the world, so if the customer wants something specific used, I make it a priority and actually enjoy seeking out stuff.”
Autumn buys used vinyl and will value and reference your collection. They also offer unique services such as their cleaning service, making custom posters, and providing tutorial lessons in collecting, grading, and referencing with vinyl records. There’s a selection of turntables and related items too. Check out the stock on their website to see if they have what you’re looking for.
best record stores in sault ste. marie
3. The Rad Zone
Where: 721 Queen St E, Sault Ste. Marie
Why it's a must-visit: Established 28 years ago by Paul “Monk” Muncaster, the Rad Zone has become a leader in selling rare vinyl. That’s not all you’ll find though – there’s also CDs, cassettes, video games, consoles and accessories, vintage stereos, movies on Blu-Ray, DVD and VHS, collectible figures, posters, 8-tracks, and laser discs, books and comics (at Hole In the Wall books, next door). There are over 150,000 items to choose from, with new stock added daily.
The Rad Zone got its start at the Wellington Square Mall where it operated for 18 years before moving to the Queen St. E. location. From those early days, they have also been the go-to stop for skateboarding and snowboarding enthusiasts. Completely independently owned and operated The Rad Zone fully supports local musicians and skateboarders and can often be found sponsoring and participating in cultural events around the city.
Where: 10232 Highway 17 North in Batchawana Bay, ON
Why it's a must-visit: Oosik Records is, at 70 square feet, officially the world’s smallest record store. You’ll find it on owner Al Bjornaa’s family property along the TransCanada, about 70km outside of Sault Ste. Marie, in a retrofitted meat refrigeration trailer. Yes, you read that right.
Size isn’t the only unusual thing about Oosik. Bjornaa operates the shop on the honor system. The door is open, and you can pay for purchases by leaving cash in the bowl or note his email to send him an etransfer.
Oosik’s stock is also unique. His selection of used records comes largely from his personal collection (though he offers new records, sometimes from touring bands who’ve visited to drop them off).
“I like a lot of weird music, not top 40 stuff, and I’ve kind of built the record shop that way,” Bjornaa says. “There’s records people been searching for for a decade, records you might not ever see again.”
best record stores in thunder bay
Where: 1000 Fort William Rd, Thunder Bay
Why it's a must-visit: You might not expect a chain store on a list like this one, but Sunrise isn’t your regular chain. Founded in 1977, Sunrise was one of Canada’s biggest players, until the big companies (HMV, Sam, etc) began to diminish. Now, they are the sole national brand when it comes to music retail.
Sunrise Records carries all sorts of music and all kinds of entertainment - pop figures, apparel, toys, games, books, headphones, posters, glassware, energy drinks, and more.
“Running the only record store in town I do actually feel like it's my duty to keep up on current vinyl movements and trends,” says manager Kevin Fratpietro. “Everything from vinyl pressing plants to vinyl collecting I feel is my duty to know, and from that comes great insightful conversation with customers.”
"Online shopping is not fun,” he adds, “nor is it a worthwhile experience. Physical shopping in a music store is an experience that can't be replicated. Eye strain and shipping charges not included."
best record stores in Sudbury
Where: 595 Kathleen St, Sudbury
Why it's a must-visit: Musician Mark Browning opened Cosmic Dave's fifteen years ago. At the time, he had never seen a record store that exclusively sold vinyl. Originally focusing on new releases, the store has come to also be a destination for folks selling off their vintage collections and today they have a first-rate selection of used records as well.
Cosmic Dave’s offers turntable and stereo equipment repairs. They’re also dealers for Pro-Ject, Audio Technica, Ortofon, Klipsch, JBL, Thorens and other quality brands. As the only record shop in town, Cosmic Dave’s is adept at serving its customers’ needs. “As the other shops closed down, I really felt like I needed to up my game in terms of genre selection,” says Browning. “I listen to my customers. Usually if someone asks me to order something I order two, one for them, and one for the bins.”