‘The world’s smallest record shop’ is in Batchawana Bay.
It’s called Oosik Records — ‘Oosik’ is the Inuit word for the bone in a walrus’ penis.
The shop is an old, formerly-refrigerated meat trailer on the side of the Trans Canada Highway, about 70 km north of Sault Ste. Marie.
Batchawana Bay's Al Bjornaa started the shop in June 2017 after his uncle gave him the trailer, which now sits in his front yard.
The tiny trailer is stacked from floor to ceiling with around 1,000 records, 500 tapes, 8-tracks, books, art work, old record and cassette players, stickers, patches, and other odds and ends.
“We’re not a normal business,” said Bjornaa. “We’re basically open all the time.”
Bjornaa is often hanging out on lawn chairs outside with his ‘buddy Pete’. The basic attitude is “come hang out and listen to music if you want, have a beer, and hopefully buy a record if you want,” he said.
Sometimes they’ll be hanging out into the middle of the night, watching trucks drive by on the Trans Canada Highway, and someone will randomly stop, strike up a conversation, and buy a record.
When Bjornaa’s not there, the record store runs on a goodwill basis — just take what you’re interested in and leave some cash in a bowl sitting inside.
“People who collect records are usually pretty good people,” he said.
People are usually excited to have found the place.
“They’re kind of surprised at how much stock you can fit into 70 square feet. If you have the right kind of layout you can fit a lot of stuff. That’s the big shock. They’re also surprised they’re finding a lot of weird obscure records in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
Bjornaa has been collecting records since he was 4 or 5, and for the last half a decade he’s been scaling back his personal collection — it's now down to 1,500 records.
The trailer is stocked mostly with his old records, though he also stocks new and used music he’s bought online or stuff he’s found at thrift stores.
The store carries mostly punk and indie, with some older rock, jazz, blues, and more niche modern genres like noise.
There’s a strong focus on independent artists – "the ones you won’t see in a chain store," he said.
A unique aspect is not only the predominance of vinyl records but the large selection of cassettes and little to no CDs for sale.
“When I had my own record label (years ago), I released on CD but I didn’t sell anything. When I switched to mainly cassettes and some vinyl, sales just took off. CDs are a dead format — not vinyl or cassette,” he said. “With CDs, you just upload it to your computer and put it on your phone and never touch it again. With a cassette or record, you actually have something physical… not just a digital file.”
Bjornaa is claiming the record store is the smallest record store in the world, not including ‘pop up’ shops.
“I Googled the world’s smallest record shop — the smallest permanent one — and it was 80 square feet. My place runs in at 70 feet so I think I’m the world’s smallest one,” he said.
But why did he name it after the stiff part of a walrus’ penis?
"I think I probably saw (an oosik) on Canadian Pickers, they were buying one,” he said. “It’s a funny word. Online now you have to have something that no one else has. Every word, or phrase has basically already been taken. Whether you use a new word or one from a made up language, people have to be able to find you. It’s critical that it’s different.”
In late 2017 or early 2018 Bjornaa said Oosik plans to start producing their own music releases.