The Golden Mile Shopping Centre on the southern part of Albert Street stands as a monument to a bygone era. Built as Regina’s first ever mall back in the ’60s, it’s survived shifting demographic tides, robbery attempts and a 2013 air gun scare. Large print signs blaring names like Rexall Pharmacy and Smitty’s hang overtop the various entrances that weekday shoppers scramble into, seeking protection from the last blizzard of the year. Inside there are numerous beauty salons, doctors, investment advisors and more than a few specialty stores – the mall’s heart and soul.
Not far from the food court, hidden behind a cell phone kiosk and a temporary income tax stall, sits a music and movie store nestled behind two clear glass display booths and a wide open French door. Two large arm chairs and racks and rows of CDs, vinyl records and DVDs are easily visible through the windows, along with an older man named Frank Theofan who sits patiently behind a counter plastered with concert posters. A cash register sits on top. Over the door, written in elegant white script, hangs a sign: “Bach and Beyond.”
“We had franchised a Sam the Record man back in the ‘80s,” Theofan says. “When it closed we wanted to stay in the business and I thought, well, there’s no sense going up against the other big corporate music stores, so we went after a market that they didn’t service.”
A women with long blond hair who looks like she’s in her 30’s rushes in to pick up a pair of tickets for the Regina Symphony. Bach and Beyond serves a mostly older client base, but the younger audience is still there, scratching the itch they inherited from their parents.
“They’re into the oldies from the ’50s and ’60s. They listened to mom and dad’s stuff and now they want to have their own.”
Portraits of stern faced composers share space on the white walls with movie posters of Gone with the Wind and studio shots of matinee idols. There are racks for chorus and choir music, classic Hollywood movies, baroque composers, swing music, opera and beach music, Theofan’s favourite – particularly The Ventures and The Astronauts. All are in modern format.
“Been through them all, from 8-tracks to cassettes, to vinyl to CDs,” he continues. “With the advent of MP3s and the internet, downloading has certainly hurt business. Luckily, like I say, the older clientele we have prefers to actually own the thing, rather than just have it on their MP3 player.”
Decades ago Theofan was a “body man.” He painted cars for a living until he quit, fed up with the dirt and dust, and convinced that the paint would eventually kill him. He got into the record business with some of his friends, opening their own independent shop on Hamilton Street after the closer of Sam the Record Man. They were there for 13 years. They’ve been in the mall for another 13, all the time under the same name.
“Actually, a friend and I were going to do the store and were talking ‘what are we going to call the place?’ We threw all kinds of names around and all of a sudden Bach and Beyond came out.”
Health wise it’s less hazardous, but running a music store still has its own set of problems. Advertising is always an issue, especially since Theofan dislikes what he calls “shotgun advertising,” better known as placing ads in newspapers. Finding suppliers wasn’t as difficult thanks to his connections from Sam the Record Man, but getting the rarest items can still be tricky.
“For the other stuff, the hard to find stuff and imports, I deal a lot with this guy in Holland which was just a lucky find. I was looking for one particular label out of England and I emailed them and they put me on to this guy. He probably now is our biggest supplier.”
It’s a relaxing atmosphere. Soothing music flows quietly out of the roof speakers, and the easy chairs look inviting, but no composer creates music without overcoming a few trials. There is definitely trouble in paradise.
“Just about everybody has to get out of here by the end of August,” he says in a matter-of-fact voice.
The mall will undergo a few changes. A few businesses, like Rainbow Theatre and Golden Mile Bowling, will stay. Others, like Bach and Beyond, are out. In its place? A new Real Canadian Superstore, set to open in 2017. There is no bitterness or despair, just resignation.
“We knew it was coming. This has been a rumour for two years coming up, so it wasn’t a huge surprise for us. Just two weeks ago we got notification as to when we had to get out.”
Theofan still loves people and music, so this isn’t the end. He’s looking for a new place to set up shop. His customers say they’ll follow him, regardless of where he ends up. He says he’ll run this store until they have to carry him out, but he’s under no illusions. All albums and movies, no matter how great, eventually come to an end. The industry, he says, is dying, but there’s still a bit of fight left in Bach and Beyond, and its owner.
“We’re hanging in. It’s a struggle right now with the downloading and people buying online, but we’re hanging in.”