TORONTO - Sam Sniderman, the charismatic founder of the legendary Sam the Record Man music store whose unwavering support for Canadian performers helped shape the country's musical landscape, has died.
He was 92.
His family said Sniderman died peacefully in his sleep Sunday, surrounded by loved ones, in Toronto.
The prolific businessman held on to his trademark stubbornness and fierce independence — the very traits that helped propel his music empire — until the end, his son Jason said.
"He never really retired, he was always interested in what was going on," he said in a phone interview.
"He believed in Canadian music because it was something that spoke to him from inside," he said.
"Because his belief in Canadian music was so strong, he was tireless in how he pursued its success and I think that's his true legacy."
Sniderman opened his flagship store on Toronto's Yonge Street in 1959.
It grew into a haven for artists and music lovers of all stripes, building a particularly loyal customer base and a knowledgeable staff that could hold their own against any music fan that walked through the door.
The iconic store with its huge flashing red neon record signs closed in 2007, seven years after he officially retired.
It was a difficult time for Sniderman, who maintained a steady presence at the beloved family business, said Jason Sniderman, who grew up in the store and took over its operations with his brother Bobby.
"He was always really sad about it," and struggled to come to terms with the sudden shift toward digital music, which ultimately led to the store's collapse, he said.
A major promoter of Canadian music, Sniderman was a Member of the Order of Canada, an inductee of the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. He also received a Governor General award and honorary doctorates from Ryerson University and the University of Prince Edward Island.
Known widely as Sam the Record Man, Sniderman and his brother, Sid opened a small store on College Street in Toronto in 1937 and together they built a chain of Sam the Record Man stores that spanned the country.
"Sam was the last of the great Canadian showmen that were able to establish themselves as household names purely through the force of their personality", said Brian Robertson, a close family friend and Chairman Emeritus of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.
"He was a mentor to literally hundreds of Canadian artists and musicians and the Yonge Street record store and Sam's presence there was the centre of the Canadian music industry's universe for over three decades."
The family says a service will be held Tuesday and a memorial service will be held next month.