Kops Records – Oshawa’s home for vinyl records – moves to new digs downtown
Published May 15, 2023 at 9:43 am
Oshawa IS the Music City in Durham Region and King Street East is the epicentre, with two major venues in the Biltmore and Regent theatres across the street from each other, another major space likely opening this summer immediately to the north on Bond Street in the Music Hall, and plenty of bars and restaurants around to complete the picture.
The Atria, a home for emerging talent for decades, is on the block and the 6,000-seat Tribute Communities Centre for the major acts is just a block away as well.
Now you can add Kops Records to that mix after the record store, a fixture at Simcoe and John streets south of downtown since 2015, moved into new digs at 34 King St. E on May 6.
The reason Kops Records moved is simple enough (and relatable to a million other businesses): the lease was up and so too would be the rent.
But the move to the former Omni Jewelers location in the heart of downtown is already looking to be a blessing for Oshawa’s home of vinyl, said music writer and historian and Kops general manager Will McGuirk.
“Music is very much a part of this town,” he said, citing Oshawa’s music history from Jack London and the Sparrows (forerunners to chart-topping Steppenwolf) and Wednesday of the 1960s and 70s to today’s emerging superstars in Crown Lands, Daniel Caesar and Dizzy.
McGuirk points to the success the latter three bands are enjoying and all the music venues within a stone’s throw from his new shop as an example of the city’s musical renaissance.
“What’s happening here right now was happening in Seattle 30 years ago and in Manchester before that,” he said. “I like that this city is leaning into music and recognizing that culture can be a pillar of economic development.”
Kops Records, founded nearly 50 years ago in east Toronto, is part of music history itself since Martin Koppel started selling vinyl records on Queen Street East in 1976. A second Toronto location followed and then the Oshawa expansion eight years ago after Oshawa’s own vinyl record pioneer, Mike Star – who had been selling records since 1974 – died on a holiday in Cuba in 2015.
Kops originally moved into the Star Records location at 148 Simcoe South before moving a couple units away to 156 Simcoe.
“Because of Star, this place got known as a place where you could get vinyl records,” McGuirk noted.
Now, downtown is the place to find them, with McGuirk paying homage to Kops’ roots, calling King Street “the new Queen.”
“It’s an interesting strip and a great place to hang out.”
The growth of the vinyl record industry has been rapid over the past decade or so, he said, partly for nostalgic reasons, but the customer demographics go far beyond those old enough to remember vinyl’s peak.
In fact, it seems the business has come full circle from the heady Elvis days of the 1950s and early 60s when teenagers dictated the trends in record sales.
“It’s not just old guys that look like me,” McGuirk said of his customer base. “Now it’s young people, especially young girls, who are coming in and buying records.”
Forty years ago there were half a dozen stores in Oshawa selling vinyl records and there is at least that many today, including newcomer Another Spin Records just around the corner on Bond Street.
One of the things about Kops in Oshawa that sets it apart from its competitors is its history of buying record from the public, something McGuirk calls a “big part” of the business.
One other element that the store was known for on Simcoe South, or ‘SoJo,’ as McGuirk liked to call it, that is not coming to the new location is the event space upstairs where big name bands as well as up-and-comers got a chance to play.
“That was an important community jamming place pre and post-COVID that was important for Kops,” he said. “That’s not going to happen here – it’s not going to be an incubator for local talent anymore.”
Bands will still be able to set up at the store, however, and the first band – Chastity, a group from Whitby – is coming to play in the new store’s window-front area on Saturday. “We’ll see how that works out,” McGuirk said.
In the meantime Kops, which has the largest inventory of ‘kollectible’ and new vinyl releases in the region – “If we don’t have it we can find it,” he promised – will continue to sell records while playing a major role in the revolution happening in Durham’s Music City.
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