Iconic Sam The Record Man Sign May Yet Survive On Ryerson Campus After Toronto Council Meeting

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SAM RECORD MAN
Sam the Record Man neon sign made and designed by the Markle Brothers (Photo by Dick Loek/Toronto Star via Getty Images) | Getty

It appears that the iconic Sam The Record Man sign in downtown Toronto might end up restored to one of the two originally agreed-upon locations after all, despite Ryerson University's argument that it wasn't feasible to return the sign to its historic context."

Toronto city council and Mayor Rob Ford discussed the issue on its agenda this morning (Oct. 9) and have referred the motion regarding the sign back to staff "for further consideration." In effect, the motion gives the university one year to find a location for the landmark sign before the item returns to city council's agenda.

Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam proposed her motion regarding the Sam's sign be amended to restore the sign to a location near its original location along Yonge St., preferably the intersection of Yonge St. and Gould St. According to the city council Agenda's website the council asked "to ensure that the cultural and heritage impact of Sam The Record Man signs are re-purposed and placed in a contemporary context of promoting Toronto's music history in the local area."

The sign became a topic of discussion after Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy announced earlier this summer the institution wouldn't restore the sign but instead provide a "commemorative insert" along Yonge Street according to 680 News. Ryerson University -- who purchased the land the store was on in 2008 -- said the cost of repairing and re-raising the sign would be too high.

The Toronto Sun reported in September that Wong-Tam encouraged council to re-enter into a new agreement demanding the sign be put back up as well as plaques and a website showcasing the former sign and music retail outlet.

"We would have a contract," Wong-Tam said at the time, adding it becomes a "matter of two parties fighting or disputing the contents, duties and obligations of an agreement." Meanwhile, fellow city councillor Josh Matlow also told the Toronto Sun the thought of Ryerson breaching its contract could be a forerunner of possible future breaches regarding heritage sites.

Several notable musicians. from Anne Murray to Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning, also took up the cause recently regarding the sign which shone above the doors until closing in 2007 (see letters slideshow below).

Rush singer/guitarist Geddy Lee wrote a letter (re-tweeted by newly formed Toronto music organization 4479) to city council demanding the sign be restored. "The Sam The Record Man store and sign were important fixtures in Toronto's musical landscape as well as its Civic history," Lee wrote in the Sept. 27 letter. "Sadly, all that remains now are our memories of the store and this magnificent neon sign. Ryerson and the city of Toronto should absolutely preserve what myself and many of its citizens consider to be an important symbol of our past and of that store's contribution to our culture."

The cause was also supported by brothers Bobby and Jason Sniderman, sons of the late Sam Sniderman who founded the chain of outlets. They, too, wrote a letter stating if their father was alive he would've called Ryerson to solve the problem. "'Sheldon...it's SAM,'" an excerpt says. "'Sheldon stick to the deal that we made to reinstall the signs on your building. I kept my side of the deal.................now you keep yours."

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