Skip to content
The Record Store

The Record Store: You’ll Never Guess This Store’s Highest-Selling Album

Today, we’re profiling Argy’s Records & Entertainment Shop in Winnipeg
Owner Ray Giguere (L) with Fabio, a customer from Brazil. (All photos credited to Steve Lyons.)
Owner Ray Giguere (L) with Fabio, a customer from Brazil. (All photos credited to Steve Lyons.)

It’s -17C in Winnipeg and a brisk north wind makes it feel considerably more frigid. But on the inside of Argy’s Records & Entertainment Shop, owner Ray Giguere has a warm welcome for each and every one of the folks who’ve braved the elements to visit his store, located in a strip mall in the far south end of town.

In fact, a fellow named Fabio has traveled all the way from São Paulo, Brazil. Okay, he’s actually in town visiting his daughter who is going to school in Winnipeg, but still — he has bundled up to hunt for vinyl and is plucking one gem after another from Ray’s racks of records. His final purchase includes selections from Al Green, Madonna, Amy Winehouse — and the one that brings the biggest smile to his face, Earth, Wind & Fire’s Greatest Hits.

Ray chats with Fabio about his visit to Canada, snaps a photo for an Instagram post, assists him to his car across the slippery parking lot and bids him a friendly goodbye.

A subsequent customer goes away happy after snagging a signed copy of an album by American jazz legend Dave Brubeck. And two other fellows rummage through some boxes under the racks and score a couple of Jeff Beck albums; they then head off after a bit of a debate with Ray and this roving reporter over the merits of the new Rolling Stones album Hackney Diamonds. We like it, they’re on the fence.

“I think that’s one of the reasons people come to a shop like this. Instead of shopping online, they can chat and have some one-on-one interaction,” says Ray. “We like to have fun in the shop. They’re all happy when they come here, they want to buy music… as long as we have that banter going, they seem to like coming back.”

Watching Ray do his thing, you can’t help but feel he was born to do what he does. Which makes sense given that he’s been doing it most of his life.

He opened Argy’s in 1982 at the age of 19, but first started selling albums out his locker during high school.

“I lived outside the city, but would hitchhike into town, go to swap shops, buy records and then sell them at school,” he recalls. “Then I would go to the established record stores in town and look for new stuff.”

After graduation and with no real job prospects, Ray signed a one-year lease at his first location, which was a few kilometers north of his current spot and across the street from one of the city’s larger high schools. He opened the doors with 600 records, a whack of video games, and a stereo wall to sell used equipment. He also added a magazine rack that included copies of SPIN.

Over the next 42 years, he moved Argy’s — named after the 1980 Squeeze album Argybargy — to the current location, stopped partying, got married to Roseline — they will celebrate 35 years of marriage on April 29, 2024 — and raised a family. The couple have three adult daughters and all of them have worked in the store at one time or another. The first born child got an early start, riding to the shop each morning in a child’s seat on the back of Ray’s bike. He still rides his bike to work most days.

Things looked bleak for Argy’s in the late 1990s and into the new millennium as Napster-driven peer-to-peer file sharing and then digital music led to many music stores shuttering their businesses.

“Everything went kaput.” Ray recalls. “If I had just stuck with records, I would have gone out of business.”

He kept the store open by selling trading cards, comics, posters; he even once sold his own camera from the showcase for $200 just for some extra cash. 

But by the early 2010s, vinyl was back in vogue and Ray reports that, like most record shops, Argy’s has been showing growth every year for several years now.

“I’m just so happy it’s back,” he says. “It’s so much fun again. I mean that’s why I started, right?

“I never regretted going to work, but it’s a lot more fun when people are coming in. Talking about music, talking about the (Winnipeg) Jets… or whatever.”

How do you find your records?

Mostly people just bring them in. Or sometimes they phone and say what they have. It’s usually people downsizing, but a lot of times it’s from estates of people who have died. Sadly, death is a big contributor to the market.

What’s the most expensive record you’ve ever sold?

I sold an original sealed import of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers for $700. And also a Canadian-only 45 of an early Pink Floyd song “Arnold Layne” for $400 US.

Who is the most famous person who has ever come into your store?

Someone from SPIN magazine wanting to do a story on me. (Laughs) Someone told me once they saw [The Guess Who’s] Burton Cummings here. I feel I would have remembered that, but maybe I missed him. Goddo’s Greg Godowitz did play [at] a backyard barbeque I had for the store. Does that count?

What’s the first concert you ever went to?

I think it was Jeff Beck. I didn’t know much about him other than he had been in the Yardbirds — but my cousin had some tickets and took me.

Most memorable concert?

That’s a tough one. I’ve seen a lot of shows. The Eagles and Steve Miller was pretty memorable. We camped out in a pup tent; me and my cousin. The first time Van Halen came to town was pretty cool. I just remember walking down the stairs afterwards, my ears were ringing so bad I couldn’t hear anything.

Favorite album?

Man, that’s such a hard one. I can tell you that yesterday my favorite album was Van Morrison’s Moondance — but that’s about the best I can do. It’s like picking your favorite kid. I can hardly even say what my favorite Beatles album is, what my favorite Stones album is, what my favorite Petty album is.

Greatest singers of all time

Well, there’s five for sure — and I’m not going to say any one of them is the greatest, but Burton Cummings doesn’t get his just due. Robert Plant does. Paul Rodgers I’ve always loved. Steven Tyler and Freddie Mercury, of course. But Burton should be in there. Probably because he’s from Winnipeg and Canada, he doesn’t get the same recognition. And he can still belt it out. I definitely hold him up there with those other guys.

Advice for anyone who would want to own a record store?

I’m the last person to ask for advice since I just crawled out from under 25 years of debt (laughs). You gotta roll with the punches, adapt, and don’t be pigeon-holed. People say they’re only going to sell this music or that music. Sure, you can be a bit of a music snob, but you gotta be open too.

Do you have any advice for people shopping for records?

People are always poo-pooing new music. There are so many good new artists out there. I mean, the world is your oyster when it comes to music. If you can find an original record that you’ve been searching for, great. But don’t spend all your time looking for that one record. There are a million other records you can enjoy.