Canadian Music Trade - February / March - Page 23

Steve’s Music Store Toronto Celebrates 40 Years Jazz Festival] a block-and-a-half to our west, and we have the University of Quebec about a block-and-a-half to our east, so we have so much more op- portunity,” Kirman enthuses. “The new location is fabulous with respect to the street traffic.” Changes aside, the core of the experience remains the same, Sazant in- sists. “The way we service our clients, the way we take care and pride in what we do for a living, we are very proud of that. Going forward, we’re going to continue to modernize, to be much more effective with our social media and our website. We want to be able to reach out to a new generation and give them an opportunity to not just stay home, buy online, and have UPS come to their door. We sell dreams; we cater to professionals, to weekend warriors, and, for everyone, we have to make that a pleasurable experience so the they feel good about it and want to come back.” Again, the core of that effort is the hands-on approach Steve always insisted on. “We wholeheartedly want customers to immerse themselves in music here and try instruments,” Kirman sums up. “There is a certain feel to any instrument. If you’re not trying it in a brick-and-mortar store, you won’t get the nuances of it – certainly not from reading a spec sheet.” And the fun and welcoming vibe that has long defined Steve’s Music is about as far from just reading a spec sheet as you can get. Kevin Young is a musician and freelance writer based in Toronto. Coincidentally, Steve’s Music’s Toronto location cel- ebrated its 40 th anniversary right around the same time the new Montreal store opened its doors. Like Steve’s Montreal, the Toronto store on Queen St. West has undergone its share of changes over time, but the most significant of those, says General Manager Kevin Parker, has simply been the gear on offer. A Steve’s veteran of over 37 years, Parker says the variety of technology and its sophistication and function in virtually every MI product category has expanded exponentially, particularly in recording gear, going from tape to early digital recorders to modern workstations and software. “[Recording equipment] wasn’t cheap back then, but I bet you within a couple of kilometres of the store in the day, there were probably 50 to 100 recording studios,” Parker says. Then there are the many live music venues nearby. “When I started here in 1980, it was the punk rock scene and Queen St. West was a pretty decrepit neighbourhood, but it definitely had a cool factor.” Since then, the neighbourhood has gentrified significantly, but Steve’s is still within crawling dis- tance from venues such as the Horseshoe Tavern, the Rivoli, the Cameron House, and many others. Also, Parker notes, given that gentrification, their cus- tomer base is expanding to include people who’ve moved into the multitude of condo developments springing up downtown. “And that’s bringing a whole other demographic of people back to Toronto.” Steve’s Toronto, like Steve’s Montreal, boasts multiple rooms, nooks, and crannies and a commit- ment to founder Steve Kirman’s fundamental hands- on approach. Parker admits that maintaining a brick-and-mortar retail store in this landscape can be challenging, but the fact that Steve’s Toronto is still going strong says something about the experience – a place where you can pick up an instrument, take your time, and try it out. “That’s the way Steve built it,” Parker puts sim- ply. “He said, ‘You know what? C’mon in. Pick up instruments and play them. That’s always been the way, and it continues to be the way we do business.” Recently, the store has doubled down on that ethic, incorporating a full stage outfitted with all the gear needed for performances and now hosts a reg- ular Thursday evening open mic. “We call it Steve’s Lounge,” Parker says. “Anyone can come in and play; you just have to book it.” And it’s been so successful the store is considering adding another night. “One guy comes in one week and plays the guitar, the next week he’s got a bass player, and by the fourth week it’s a whole band.” CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE • 23