GUEST COLUMN: To all the local record stores I’ve known and loved

Nadine Wark

For 22 years the Cheeky Monkey in downtown Sarnia has been the go-to place for CDs, EPs, LPs, 45s, and other music-related products.

Owners Roland and Mary Anne Peloza retired and closed the doors on Sept. 20 after selling the building a Toronto firm. It’s not known who will occupy it next.

The store offered something for every taste and demographic. Last year, while walking my dog, I dropped around to the front door on a whim. It was during a lockdown when customers couldn’t enter most stores.

Through my mask I asked if there was any chance they might carry the greatest hits of Dion & The Belmonts, a doo-wop group who started singing as teenagers on the street corners of Bronx, N.Y. I was so surprised when Mary Anne returned to the door with a three-CD set. I promptly bought one for myself and one for my sis.

The store welcomed musicians to share and perform in their space, and the walls often displayed local photography and art. The Cheeky Monkey must have enjoyed the unexpected resurgence of vinyl, with in-style LPs bought up at an astonishing pace and with them, of course, the turntables of yesteryear.

I remember receiving my first record player one Christmas as a girl. It was green and square-shaped and resembled a small suitcase. Inside was a secured arm with the needle and it played 33 RPMs, 45s and 78s.

My mother shared some old 78s from the attic that were fragile, so I had to be careful. They were my introduction to big bands and artists such as Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, the McGuire Sisters, Eddie Fisher and Dean Martin. Vaughan Monroe singing ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ in a low, scary voice brings back a shudder to this day.

For many Sarnians of a certain age, Mary’s Record Mart on Front Street was our Cheeky Monkey. Those in charge of buying 45’s for the ‘Teentown’ dances in Sarnia, Corunna and Courtright were seen, sometimes weekly, buying up the latest Top 10 records.

My friends and I would take the Chatham bus to Sarnia, which picked us up in Corunna. We’d rush to Mary’s and sift through the bins of 45s. The latest from the Beatles would cause a stampede and disappear quickly.

Kresge’s also had a small record section, as did Sentry department story on London Road.

Music lovers will miss Cheeky Monkey, and we say thanks for the musical memories.

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who lives in Sarnia