Hits and Misses and Rotate This: the Macy’s and Gimbels of Queen West?
When Bloor West vinyl institution Hits and Misses packed up and stole south to Queen and Niagara a few weeks back, many local crate-diggers were surprised that the shop set down at 799 Queen Street West—right next door to neighbourhood favourite Rotate This. Was it a predatory move on the part of Hits and Misses brass, an attempt to muscle in on Rotate’s turf? Was it just a happy accident? A bid to strike up some local microcosmic version of the Macy’s/Gimbels rivalry? Some sort of mutually beneficial business arrangement? For local record collector Joel Bath, a longtime shopper of both stores, the move can only be described as “weird.”
“It’s cool but it’s weird,” offers Bath. “It’s cool having a little shanty town of record stores, but for someone who’s shopped at both places and been so loyal for years and years, it’s weird.”
For Hits and Misses manager Peter Genest, the move was essential, no matter how weird it may seem to his patrons. Quite simply, his store wasn’t making it at its former location near Bloor and Ossington, a strip better known for its abundance of tasty Ethiopian restaurants and Greek social clubs than booming retail stores. “I was dying a slow death,” says Genest of the former location. “A punk and metal and hardcore record store needs be either on Queen West or in Kensington.”
The interior of the all-new Hits and Misses.
Concentrating almost exclusively on music with more aggressive tendencies, Hits and Misses stock isn’t likely to intersect in many ways with Rotate’s. In fact, Genest estimates that his store’s stock is approximately ninety percent different than his neighbour’s, with most of the overlap being second-hand vinyl. Moreover, while Rotate is very much a boutique vinyl shop, Hits and Misses retains the rough-edged punk squat vibe of its original location, specializing in new and used LPs, 45s, and CDs, but also pins, patches, and other punk regalia.
Genest is also quick to note that the move was not at all predatory, and simply a matter of available commercial spaces for rent on the highly desirable Queen West strip. “There’s no animosity between us,” he says of neighbours Rotate This. “This store simply offered the best value per square foot.”
Patches, pins, 45s, and more differentiate Hits and Misses from the competition next door.
If anything, sharing a wall with another of Toronto’s most-loved record stores may benefit both retailers. After all, dedicated visitors to one may peek their head into the other, especially considering that most people buying new and reissued vinyl are plush with disposable income. Even in just three weeks, Genest has noticed a “promising” upturn in business, with window-shoppers popping in to riffle through Burning Love, Buzzov•en, and Greg Cartwright records. Where at his old location Genest expected a modest four customers per day, he now averages around twenty, even on slow days.
Certainly the plum location is bound to raise the profile of Hits and Misses, one of the city’s best record stores. And with Frantic City, a record shop specializing in early rock and garage vinyl, also nestled comfortably above the new Hits and Misses, Queen and Niagara may have just become Shangri-La for Toronto vinyl junkies of all stripes.
Photos by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.
Hits and Misses and Frantic City are celebrating this Friday with a grand opening party at their new digs at 799 Queen Street West. DJs will be spinning classic hardcore, metal, and punk. Rumours of pizza (extra crust, presumably) are currently circulating around the event’s Facebook page. Hits and Misses will also be celebrating their grand opening with a twenty-five percent off sale this Saturday and Sunday.