Exploring Kingston’s four unique record stores

By Abbey McCauley

The limestone city is home to a vibrant music scene, which wouldn’t be complete without its record stores. Kingston is home to four record stores, a number rivalling much larger cities. From vintage gems to the latest releases, Kingston’s record shops are hallowed ground for music lovers and collectors alike.  

Read on to discover the story of Kingston’s record stores, each with their own unique charm and passionate shop owners. 

Two friends leaving Zap Records / Credit: Tim Forbes

Zap Records Kingston: A lifelong collector turned shop owner 

20 Montreal St.  

Open: 7 days a week (noon – 6 pm)  

Zap Records’ owner Gary discovered a love for vinyl at a young age. “While other kids were going to the toy section in stores, I was looking at the records. I was drawn to the cover art,” he says. This magnetic attraction to music and vinyl signalled to Gary that his career would be in the music industry.  

His involvement in selling records began in 1985 when he met the original owner of Zap Records, Paul Cowan, in Belleville. Under Paul’s guidance, Gary honed his skills in record cleaning, album cover repair, inner sleeve replacement, and grading records. This knowledge became invaluable when he decided to move to Kingston and open Zap Records Kingston in 1991.  

The choice of Kingston as the store’s location was driven by a deep love for the city’s music scene, vibrant downtown atmosphere, and proximity to both tourists and students. Over the years, Zap Records has seen a few locations, including 77A Princess Street and 340 Princess Street, before settling into its current home at 20 Montreal Street. At its current location, the store is packed with organized selections of equally new and used vinyl, CDs, and posters for sale.  


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“I am not a businessman. I am a passionate music lover,” Gary declares. His focus isn’t solely on popular or mainstream records but on lesser-known gems that he hopes will stand the test of time. He’s equally adept at selecting quality artists that deserve recognition, always attuned to what his customers desire.  

But Gary’s connection to the Kingston music scene goes beyond being a record store owner. He’s a drummer and has played on two records. Gary was a member of Buck Jones, a country folk band, about 15 years ago. The band left its mark on Kingston, opening for notable acts such as The Sadies at the Grad Club and performing at various local venues, including the Toucan and The Merchant Tap House. He also played drums for Jill Barber’s first band, Bent Ivy. In 2021, Gary recorded the album Of Lures and Love as part of Clem Chesterfield and the La-Z Boy Recliners through Wolfe Island Records. You can now find Gary playing drums in the house band for Royal Jam, a monthly open mic hosted at Blu Martini.  


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For Gary, Zap Records isn’t just a business; it’s a lifelong passion. That passion resonates through the grooves of every record that finds a home at Zap Records. Check out Zap Records’ website to learn more about the store and to find your next favourite vinyl. 

Record display at Something Else Records / Credit: Tim Forbes

Something Else Records: Where dreams meet vinyl  

207A Wellington St.  

Open: Mon – Sat (11 am – 6 pm), Sun (noon – 4 pm)  

Something Else Records opened its doors in November 2018, just days after the birth of owners Matt and Tanya’s son, Wilder. Their journey to owning a record store was a culmination of years of experience in the industry, including stints at record stores and bookshops in Toronto. When Matt and Tanya returned to Kingston after living in Toronto and Ottawa, they felt a surge of inspiration propelling them to follow their dreams of opening a record shop.  

The name “Something Else” just came to Matt. He says, “Something else is a name commonly used for jazz albums in the 1960s. And for record collectors, you are always looking for something else and something new.”  

The store is a counterculture haven for art enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of new and used records, books, cassettes, CDs, and work by local artists. Matt says, “We curate not just based on demand. We believe in good music and curate our selection based on the quality of music and pressings, focusing on counterculture.” With its art-forward and inclusive atmosphere, Something Else Records is a space where Kingston’s music and art community come together. The store has a local music section and an area for local accessories and art.  

Two friends leaving Something Else Records / Credit: Tim Forbes

If you are looking for “something else,” look for the purple “records” sign adorning Something Else Records on Wellington Street. Beyond their brick-and-mortar location, Something Else Records maintains an active website, making their collection accessible to music lovers beyond Kingston’s limits.  

The storefront of Brian’s Record Option / Credit: Tim Forbes

Brian’s Record Option: A musical treasure trove since 1980  

381 Princess St.  

Open: Mon – Wed (9:30 am – 6:30 pm), Thu – Fri (9:30 am – 9 pm), Sat (9:30 am – 6:30 pm)  

Brian’s Record Option has been a Kingston institution for over four decades. Established in April 1980, Brian’s store boasts an impressive inventory of used and new records, CDs, cassettes, posters, music books, and the occasional sound system or record player. The shop’s unique charm lies in the fact that while the store is bursting at the seams, Brian can locate any item you desire in the labyrinth of his store.  

Brian’s journey into the world of record stores started with his father who was a record distributor. Over the years, Brian searched for something realistic. He used music connections and his extensive collection of records to start a record store in Kingston. He says, “I had a number of places in mind, but I choose Kingston because one – the student population; two – its closeness to my U.S. distributors, Montreal, and Toronto; three – the location on the water; and four – its downtown main drag.”  

Friends picking a record at Brian’s Record Option / Credit: Tim Forbes

Brian describes his store as “alternative and overwhelming yet filled with laughter and stories.” Brian loves connecting with his large customer base of locals and tourists, sharing tales of his interactions online on his Facebook page. He says, “You have to listen to your customer base and be open to changes. If two people mention the same record to me, I stock it.”  

Brian didn’t initially see his store as a significant contributor to Kingston’s music scene, but during a challenging time in 2018 when the store flooded, the outpouring of support from the community proved otherwise. Brian loves supporting the local music scene by selling local concert tickets and allowing artists to perform outside his shop. His story is known far beyond Kingston, as visitors have frequented Brian’s for years, drawn in by the vast array of musical treasures and Brian’s encyclopedic knowledge of his inventory.  

The Now and Then storefront in the Cataraqui Centre / Credit: Now and Then

Now and Then Music and Movies Kingston: Carrying on the legacy of Sam the Record Man 

Cataraqui Centre, 945 Gardiners Road  

Open: Mon – Fri (10 am – 8 pm), Sat (10 am – 6 pm), Sun (11 am – 5 pm)  

If you are a long-time music lover, you’ll remember the Canadian record store chain Sam the Record Man. In the early 1980s, this chain was Canada’s largest music recording retailer, boasting 140 stores from coast to coast. Holly and Spencer Destun opened Sam the Record Man as a franchise in Belleville in 1979, and today, it is the last remaining relic of the once-mighty chain. In 2017, they decided to expand their music business and bring it to Kingston under the name Now and Then Music and Movies Kingston. 

Walking into Now and Then is like stepping into an entertainment time capsule. The store offers turntables, vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, and collectibles. When asked about their focus, Holly explains, “We do everything! We have a huge vinyl and movie section. All varieties and genres! We have an inventory like you wouldn’t believe. We always have had the belief that if you don’t have it, you can’t sell it, so we’ve made sure that our shelves are always full.”  

With the resurgence of vinyl in the 2000s, Holly says, “We felt there was a need even though the industry has changed to streaming and downloading. People still want physical products. We wanted to see if we could fill that need.” Holly says that music can be an escape for people, “A lot of people can relate to their favourite bands and artists. We are happy for people to come in and pick out something.” 

At Now and Then, metal and country genres reign supreme in their vinyl collection. They also have a special place for local artists like Miss Emily and The Glorious Sons, supporting them through consignment sales. “When we first opened, members of The Glorious Sons used to come into the store all the time. That was before I knew what they looked like! Now I want them to come in, and I can’t get them because they are huge now,” chuckles Holly.  

The rock vinyl section at Now and Then / Credit: Now and Then

At its core, Now and Then is a family affair. Holly, Spencer, and son Krystofer collectively orchestrate the operations of Sam the Record Man in Belleville and Now and Then storefronts in Kingston and Oshawa. In a world where music transcends time, Now and Then is a place where melodies of the past and present continue to play on.  

These four record stores – Zap Records, Something Else Records, Brian’s Record Option, and Now and Then Music and Movies – uniquely support Kingston’s music scene in their own ways. Whether you’re searching for a specific record or simply a place to explore the world of music, Kingston’s record stores have you covered.  

Learn more about Kingston’s artists and their records on a self-guided music tour around the city!