The music fan of the 1970s didn’t have the plethora of resources that we enjoy today. Sure, the popular records of the time were sold at most department stores. But what if your tastes were a little more eclectic?
Unless you had a decent independent record store nearby, your best bet was to head to your local Sam Goody, a mecca of sorts for the New York music aficionado.
The story starts with a man named Sam Gutowitz, a man who originally sold toys and novelties from his small retail store in Manhattan. In the late 30s, Sam noticed an increased demand for phonograph records (78s at the time) from his customers and started stocking a few popular titles. He quickly surmised that selling music was more profitable than his other stock.
He closed up shop and opened his first music store on 49th Street, which he called Sam Goody. By 1955, this single location was responsible for 7% of all music sold in the nation, and Sam was welcoming some 4,000 customers a day into his store.
Sam Goody didn’t just stock the most popular stuff like other retailers. The store prided themselves in offering not only one of the most extensive record inventories around, but also a very knowledgeable sales staff. They stocked the largest labels and the smallest, including an impressive selection of foreign imports.
And while most stores only carried a small selection of 45s, usually just the top hits of the year, one could browse hundreds, if not thousands of 45 singles at Sam Goody.
(pardon the quality)
By the early 70s, there was nearly 20 Sam Goody locations scattered around the east coast, many of which were placed in shopping malls. Then, in 1978, Sam sold the entire chain to the American Can Company. The iconic record store changed hands many times in the years that followed and gradually lost all of the charm of the original.
Although the company expanded to hundreds of stores, most didn’t have the floor space to handle the extensive inventory of their predecessors, instead relying on the generic selection of popular music, which further alienated their loyal customer base. By the time the 90s arrived, Sam Goody was a mere shell of its former self, just another overpriced peddler of pop music.
For those who only know Sam Goody from its later incarnations, it might seem silly to fondly remember such an entity, but if you were buying music in the 70s, it’s hard not to wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days of Sam Goody, where one could browse their aisles for hours, finding countless musical gems along the way.
Do you have fond memories of shopping at Sam Goody back in the day? I’d love to hear from all you former customers and employees. Help us all relive those glory days in the comments section below, and pay tribute to what was once a respectable and thoroughly enjoyable music store.
Goody’s was always a rip-off with sporadic selections and sky-high prices. I always shopped at J & R Music World, downtown Manhattan. They blew Sam Goody out of the water in every aspect. Even Tower Records was cheaper, and they too, charged top dollar.
I recall Sam Goody’s getting in a lot of trouble for selling bootleg 8-track tapes of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I believe some of the chain’s top executives were eventually indicted for this. One of the witnesses who testified at the trial was Paul Simon. That’s funny, I don’t see his name anywhere on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album!!
International Can executives after Sam sold the company. It’s too bad the company name was his name.
I worked in one of those early stores – the first one located outside of the NY area. They did not have 20+ stores until they purchased Franklin Music of Philadelphia. I prefer to remember the information from the first part of the article. The store where I worked was truly amazing at the time for the size and breadth of the collection. There was simply nothing like it within hundreds of miles. Sorry, but Raymond is remembering the years after Sam (and his son Howard) no longer owned and ran the business.
My first visit to New York was in August 1972 and I was suprized to find LP’s at about half the price I could buy them in Europe at that time!So at Sam Goody’s Manhattan store I felt like a kid in a candystore and brought 10 LP’s home..! I still keep them as a nice memory of those “wonder”years 😉
I remember the 49th street store very well, I worked as a salesman & stock & occasional cashier there for many years.
I eventually got promoted to assistant mrg of the then new store on 50th street & 6th ave.right down the block from radio city music hall, we always had celebraty visits from then top recording artists & of course the rocketts from radio city
Sam was the typical boss never tolerating nonsence, his sons howard who isolated himself from everyday dealings but had a penchant for stewardesses visiting, & barry who was more business orientated but not seen as much tried to move the store foward but it was a quickly changing time.
I will remember them even though I parted company many years ago
Any of you that shopped there should remember me my name was “Potsie”.
Love to you all..
I worked at the sam goody store in Philadelphia from 1964-1969 on and off I quit several times went to Europe and Israel came back always had a job I wasworking there when meet the beatles came out saw the store change didn’t know how to compete with jerrys on market st which I went to work as mgr then back to goodys a year later thgey wouldn’t get with the hip times so tey lost a big market share in philly I finally quit for last time in 1969 moved to san fran man but while I worked as goodys token hippy it was fun also worked at electric factory at night would love to here from anyone who worked with me at the factory or goodys you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org my name is bruce bayer
Wow! I remember buying All my records there in Green Acres. Every week I would go with my allowance. I still have all my records and thanks to them putting out new record players, I can listen to them Thanks for posting this article.