Dec 19, 2015. A Visit to Star Records in Oshawa

Every now and then one can find a true Luddite.

Yesterday was the first time I have been to a record store in over 15 years, namely Star Records in Oshawa. I was itching to rediscover the essence of shopping for music in an old school way. Little did I know that being old school was more than a mantra for Star Records, it is virtually elevated to the status of religion.

Star Records. Oshawa, Ontario
Star Records. Oshawa, Ontario

From the moment you walk in, you know that Star Records belongs to a different world and a different time. It is located on Simcoe St South in Oshawa, in a old section of a town which has seen better days. Once inside, the first thing you notice is that musty record store smell and then a bewildering array of record racks, dozens and dozens of album covers affixed to the walls, posters and rare edition records, with three figure price tags, proudly displayed out of easy reach. The store is really cramped, so one is constantly saying “excuse me” to shuffle between the aisles as there is room for only one person.

Like many record stores, the vinyl is triaged with the least worthy relegated to unsorted boxes strewn on the floor, where prices range from about $1 to $5. The next tier is used records alphabetized and segmented by category. The price of these recordings range from $5 to $20. Then you have your new records and valuable used records, the majority hover around $25 and go up from there. There are no electronic tools to help you find your titles, you need to know the lay of the land and have a sense of what your are seeking. The staff are remarkably helpful and seem to have an eidetic memory of their filing system.

Surprisingly, most customers are not middle aged geeks like myself, instead, they are in their late 20’s and early 30’s. A few would fall into the hipster category and the others are regular folk and a few old timers who were looking for traditional Christmas music.

From what little of Star’s history I could glean from google, the store was founded by a local legend, Mike Shulga aka Mike Star who passed away earlier this year. The store is now run by his brother Steve who strives to maintain the analog spirit that Mike initiated and curated.…/mike-star-was-a-godfather-of-canad…

I brought a camera, so I asked told the owner, Steve, for permission to post an article about the store on my blog and take some photos. He paused and said, “Would you be offended if I say no? My brother, Mike, refused all forms of digital footprint, that’s why we do not have a website, will never advertise online and want to stay off the internet as much as possible. We want to keep everything traditional and authentic here.” I was a bit taken aback, however, I must respect those wishes and part of me admires that kind of integrity and stubbornness. I really wish I could share some photos of Star Records as it is such an amazing little store. You can google for images and there are a few hits. I am sure most were taken without permission and the few that appear sanctioned are images with founder, Mike Star.

Hand Written Receipt. No Automation Here.
Hand Written Receipt. No Automation Here.

When it came time to pay, I had a sinking feeling that Star Records is so retro, they do not accept debit or credit. I was right, the twenty something clerk said there was a bank machine around the corner. When I came back with cash to pay for my haul, I was fully expecting that the bill would be hand written and manually summed. Again, I was right and also delighted that they gave me a 10% discount. This means there is no electronic inventory system, no computerized cash registers. The store has functioned for decades in a manner befitting the 1950’s, they will not change and that’s a good thing. I’ll be back.

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