“Most of us still have dreams about the store,” said Murray Glick, speaking of Yellowknife Radio, which shuttered in 1986. “We did things before they were things.”
Glick’s grandfather built the Gold Range in 1957 on 50 Street, “and then the 50/50 Mini Mall: YK Radio on one side and my mom’s and Liz Maybroda’s YK Tog Shop on the other. It was such an incredible time,” said Glick, adding that his grandfather leased the cafe to the Wongs.
Yellowknife Radio wasn’t so much about retail as it was the community it built around it.
“Coffee was always on,” said Glick. “It was a place to spend coffee breaks, lunch breaks, have a cigarette and listen to new music.”
There was an overarching impetus to do right by each other, Glick recalls. He has heard stories of his father helping people come to Yellowknife in the early days or helping them get by.
“From giving people credit on a handshake with the stuff we sold or even the keys to first homes, and saying: pay when you can,” he said.
The store started Midnight Madness, when Franklin Avenue would shut down the Friday night before the longest day of the year for a huge sale, and then the afterparty began.
“I’d get calls at 3 a.m. that a speaker blew, ‘Can you get another pair over here? And have a beer! I need a roll of film, we’re having a birthday party and ran out.’ In the days before Sunday opening…. everyone looked after each other.”
Darin North bought his 8-track albums at YK Radio around age 12.
“My first album was either Queen’s Night at The Opera double album or Supertramp’s Even in The Quietest Moments,” North recalled.
He also picked up Rush’s 2112, AC/DC’s High Voltage and Styx’s Paradise Theatre — all with his own money.
“One thing about the North back then is we all pretty much started working at 12 years old,” he said.
North remembers YK Radio, as “a place to go and socialize and stay warm in the winter month, looking at the instruments and sound systems, not just the vinyl. It was fun.”
Kenneth Huss worked as an assistant manager at YK Radio on and off for a couple of years in his early 20s. He said the business was “like a department store” with carpeting, sewing machines and furniture in the basement, and electronics, musical instruments and even sometimes camping gear on the main floor.
“We sold items you’d only find in a much, much bigger market,” said Huss, referring to products such as Betamax VCRs, Atari gaming systems, the first home computers and original CD players.
“The reps from Yamaha, Sony, would come to Yellowknife and be flabbergasted on what we were doing for business. We’d sell a $10,000 sound system every month,” said Huss.
“Some would call up after getting their stereo home and be crying because it was so beautiful! (They’d exclaim), ‘The orchestra is in my living room!’” added Glick.
Huss remembers the store’s family atmosphere the most.
“I loved working for the Glicks: they were a second set of parents, not just to me; we were a family of a mixed bag of nuts,” he said.
After leaving Yellowknife, Huss ran his own successful ventures that he credits, in part, to what he learned at YK Radio.
“I treated my staff the way the Glicks treated me,” he said. “It was not only an extraordinary time in Yellowknife, but an extraordinary store.”