By Drew Halfnight
Ryerson is poised to acquire Sam the Record Man, thanks to some slick manoeuvring by President Sheldon Levy. The iconic music shop opened in 1961 and closed permanently on June 30 of this year. Ryerson made headlines this summer when it requested that the province expropriate the building and sell it to the school.
In a phone call from the shoulder of 81 North in Virginia yesterday, the president updated The Eyeopener on the deal.
“We are following what is a very prescribed legal path,” he said, straddling his ’97 Honda Goldwing motorcycle, cars whizzing past. “We’ve put announcements in the paper, we’ve talked to the (Sniderman) family, and we’ve submitted paperwork to the government.” Levy confirmed that the school’s acquisition of the building now depends entirely on a decision by the provincial government.
Asked how Queen’s Park officials were reacting to Ryerson’s request, Levy said they were “very positive,” adding that he had been hobnobbing with PC and Liberal politicians alike to move the deal along. “I doubt we’ll have a clear yes or no before November election,” he said.
Ryerson first made a bid for Sam’s seven months ago, but when the store closed with no deal struck, Levy’s expansion-minded administration became impatient with the store’s owners.
Citing the Expropriations Act, the university bypassed some of the Sniderman family and asked the provincial government to seize the building and transfer it to the school. By law, Ryerson would have to pay the market price of the store (estimated at around $19 million) to the owners.
Sam Sniderman, the store’s 87-year-old founder, is in favour of Ryerson getting the land. “Now Sam’s is no more,” he told the Toronto Star. “But it will go on eternally if Ryerson takes over the building and establishes it as their front door on Yonge Street,” he said, echoing Levy’s stated vision for the property.
His son Bobby, who is now one of the store’s owners, was not impressed that Ryerson announced its intention to acquire the land before the store had even closed. “I would have expected something more respectful from the university,” he said in the July 3 Star article.
Levy said he had not spoken personally to the family since the closing, but had been “dealing with their legal representatives” instead.
If Ryerson gets the building, it plans to convert it into a lounge and study space connected to the library building. It would preserve Sam’s kitschy sign, featuring neon lights and two enormous red wheels.