For nearly 25 years The Beat Goes On used music store on Wellington Street has been a centre for music lovers in the city, including store manager Joel Cuthbert, to sell, as well as buy, music and movies for their collections.
“This is the first Beat Goes On I ever walked into as a kid,” said Cuthbert. “I was probably 12 or 13 trying to sell some CDs that were in terrible condition and they didn’t buy much of them, much to my disappointment but it all comes full circle. It looked quite a bit different back then.”
Until recently the store on Wellington Street had the distinction of being the second smallest store in the Beat Goes On chain.
“We had another store in Waterloo that was slightly smaller,” said Cuthbert. “They joined with another store and are now the biggest store in the chain. We liked to joke about this place being the submarine. We were all in here trying to shift around each other.”
When the neighbouring salon moved out Cuthbert seized the opportunity to move in.
“They were sweet neighbours and we miss them but at the same time it opened up an opportunity and I was told, should that happen, I was to immediately contact the owner,” Cuthbert said. “I sent him a photo and said look. It’s available.”
The expansion was swift and transformative.
“In a week and a few days over the Labour Day long weekend we ripped up the carpet and knocked the wall down,” said Cuthbert. “It literally looks like a different store.”
They have a grand opening celebration planned for Saturday, Oct. 5, that will include live performances by local musicians.
“We’ve got space at the front of the store that will be auxiliary space where we can set up some in-store performances,” he said. “The plan is to have live music every Saturday or maybe every other Saturday in the middle of the day.”
The expansion has created opportunities for local musicians and collectors and allows Cuthbert to indulge his own passion for music.
He was born in Quebec City in 1986 and moved to Guelph with his family when he was 7 years old.
“I lived here until I was 18 then I moved back to Montreal and then I came back so, there was a lot of back and forth,” he said.
Any money he had as a teen went toward building his music collection.
“Me and my friend would take my mom’s car and we would hit the two music stores in Cambridge and then we would drive over to Kitchener and hit the two music stores there,” he said. “We would just go around picking up CD's and discussing whatever music and artists we found.”
It was a formative and character-defining experience for him.
“That was the place that I found myself a lot of the time because I was always trying to find new music and exploring,” he said. “I don’t have as much spending money as I did back then. You could end a weekend with a stack of CD's and go home and unpack them.”
He even considered a career in the music industry.
“I studied studio music recording at a bible college in Cambridge,” he said. “I did one year of that. I didn’t finish but I did start it.”
His first retail job was in the electronics department at Zellers.
“I was doing photo development, where I got to operate a pretty incredible and quite stinky machine using various photo chemicals,” he said. “That was my first exposure to the retail experience.”
His love of music led him out of the darkroom and into a part-time job at the Beat Goes On in Cambridge.
“I have been with the company 12, almost, 13 years,” he said. “I worked my way up to assistant manager at the Cambridge store and then for a brief period I managed their bookstore in Kitchener.”
When the bookstore closed, he transferred to the store in Guelph where he has been manager for the past six years.
“I think in some ways it was a natural evolution,” he said. “I have always loved music. It is something that was always there as a comforting friend in difficult times and something that helped me understand myself.”
It has also helped him to know and understand the people who shop in his store.
“Every person’s collection is unique and because I am dealing with what people are getting rid of sometimes, it is a really interesting way to get to know somebody,” he said.
“Sometimes it is the stuff that they have clearly outgrown but there is something really identity building in collecting. There is an aspect of my autobiography in my collection. I can see my own story and it’s crazy to think that I am still looking for new music.”