The Wilson and Lee Music Store in Oshawa has been open for ninety-seven years. It is well known and well respected in the Durham Region to buy anything and everything music related. Historically it is the longest running music store in Canada. Pretty impressive feat, even more impressive is they did this in Oshawa. The shop was there when player pianos and gramophones were the only way to play recorded music in your home. It was there as vinyl rose to prominence, fell out of favour, and then rose once again. Over the decades it survived depression, recessions, wars, technological changes, 78s, LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and back to vinyl and countless musical trends.
The store was founded by William George Wilson, the brothers’ grandfather, a former piano tuner and refurbisher. When he needed a place to sell his used pianos, he opened a store on Simcoe Street. As pianos fell out of favour, the business transitioned into selling other instruments in the late ’50s and ’60s accordions were the big instrument, a favourite in immigrant communities from Italy, Germany and Ukraine. In the mid to late 60s’ and 70s’ it was acoustic and electric guitars that lined their front windows.
Bill began working at the store in 1953 as a high school student and was later joined by his brother Dave. In the 50s’ they had a record department with five booths and people would jam their way in, gathering together to listen to the records of the day. Since they started until they retired the Wilson brothers would show up to work every day handsomely dressed in suits and because of their extensive knowledge of the full line of instruments and products they sell you could count on some amazing lengthy music conversations.
The store would ultimately move to newer technologies selling CDs and DVDs and then with music sharing and streaming services, sales of CDs fell dramatically. Feeling it was time the brothers decided to close the business. They have had many people trying to talk them into keeping it open another three years to make it to a hundred but they were feeling the difference in the business and were ready to go. It was time to retire and it seems that their timing was perfect. When the brothers announced they would be closing via social media they received more than a thousand messages online and via email and media outlets locally and nationally covered their story.
Bill and David took the family business over in 1989 and are the last of three generations who ran Wilson and Lee. On the south wall of the building at 87 Simcoe St. North, there is a mural they had painted before closing thanking Oshawa for coming to their music store for ninety-seven years.