Tomorrow morning Kensington Market will finally have a desperately needed record store. As much as I love the Market (I live where I do partly so I can be close to it) it hasn’t had much of anything to offer in the record department beyond Paradise Bound. Not a huge deal since She Said Boom and Soundscapes are within walking distance – but neither of them have a particularly extensive vinyl section- the former focusing more on books and the latter on CDs.
So when I heard the news that Sonic Boom was opening up a second shop in Kensington I was ecstatic. Especially since the news was announced when they told us the landmark location in The Annex was being forced to move across the block and share a space with Honest Eds, the same week I found out my closest record store Criminal Records was closing up shop forever. The thought of having what has always been my favorite place for vinyl in the city within walking distance of my apartment helped to soften the blow. Not only that but this shop would ditch the CDs and replace it with vintage furniture and clothing, in true Kensington Market style. I couldn’t be happier.
Sonic Boom’s Annex location was one of the first record stores I ever set foot in back in 2004, and it was the first place that made me realize moving to Toronto was the best decision I ever made. I have nothing but great memories in that store and it breaks my heart to see it go, even if it is just moving down the street.
I was lucky enough to get an early look at the new location Monday night from owner Jeff Barber, who showed me the space and talked of plans to keep the beloved Sonic Boom in-store tradition alive in both locations, hoping to make use of the patio space at this location during Pedestrian Sundays with outdoor performances. He said the first in-store at the new Annex location will likely be Pete Bjorn and John, which I am super excited for.
He also noted that the new Kensington space will have vintage 70s and 80s stereo equipment for sale, showing me a few examples:
The walls of the store are painted in stripes of orange and pale green to match the original location and lined with records on display, 7 inches will be along the middle wall above their section and the LPs will be all across the back. It is going to look gorgeous. The vintage furniture had not yet arrived when I was there and he noted it will take time to build that section up, but it will be in the front, used to display the stereo equipment for sale, with t-shirts along the walls.
The space is not huge – no where near the size of the current Annex location – but it is perfect for what they need, slightly larger than Rotate This and Criminal Records. Jeff pointed out that a lot of his display cases were bought from Criminal Records closing sale, and how both stores leaned on each other during their mutual bad news.
I asked about the decision to have a vinyl only store and he noted that they discussed it for a while trying to figure out what percentage of CD’s would work, but in the end having a small CD section seemed somewhat pointless. He left it up to the staff to decide what they were interested in, and everyone felt all vinyl was the way to go. They also wanted to make sure the store would be affordable, rather than the typical 15$ and up price tag you will find vinyl here for as low as 3$ – 4$.
He also mentioned how the plan for a store in the Market was in the works before the frustrating situation in the Annex happened, noting how the lease was coming up for renewal so he wanted to have a back up plan.
“All my friends and coworkers were like, ‘ohh we’ll re-sign, we’ll re-sign, no problem’ and I was like ‘you know what, I just want to be prepared just in case’, and I think even if we did re-sign that we could also make a small satellite store in Kensington.”
His gut feeling was right, as they not only didn’t re-sign but the owner didn’t even give him a chance to beat out the offer they accepted from Dollarama to buy the space, after eleven years of being a loyal and respectful tenant.
The funny part – the new Kensington location used to be a dollar store.
Be sure to stop by 201 Augusta Avenue tomorrow between 11am and 9pm to welcome Jeff and the team to the neighborhood and buy some vinyl – the selection looks great – a masterfully curated independent rock/pop section along with dedicated sections for jazz, r&b, soul and international music.
This location is open from 11am to 9pm seven days a week, and it is most definitely my new home away from home.