Lyle’s Place, destination music shop for nearly 40 years, is closing

For nearly 40 years, Lyle’s Place in the 700-block of Yates Street has been an institution for music lovers of all stripes.

While it’s been a destination new-and-used record shop on that block since it opened in 1982, Lyle’s has also been a second home for many, a school for those looking to broaden their musical horizons, a marketplace and meeting place for musicians and for years it was the place to get tickets for shows of all sizes in the city.

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It has also been the centre of Janice and Rod Lyle’s world since they opened the door in 1982, four years after starting a book shop in James Bay.

Rod Lyle, who suffered a major stroke four years ago, said a confluence of factors ranging from his own health, family priorities, increased rent due to rising taxes and the effects of COVID have forced his hand.

“It’s just time,” he said Monday, while preparing the inventory for a clearance sale that will start this week. “We’ve had a great run. It’s becoming too much for the two of us.”

Lyle said the outpouring of love and support since they announced they would be closing has been incredible and a little overwhelming.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people over Facebook saying they will miss us and that’s really a good ­feeling,” he said. “It’s really wonderful, I couldn’t believe it.”

He said they had even held out a little hope for a while that things might continue, but increased costs forced the decision to close.

Lyle said he takes pride in the fact the store lasted so long, offered a wild range of music, clothing, movies and posters and sold tickets to music shows around the region without a markup for 25 years — they eventually had to add a service charge to cover staff costs.

“One of my favourite memories was hearing from a relative of a customer who had passed away, and they told me that Lyle’s was his Disneyland. He would come in once a week and looked forward to it so much,” he said.

“Hearing that made my day. Lets me know all the work was worthwhile, that we could have that much effect on someone.”

Customer Ryan Wilcox said most of his music collection is from Lyle’s, including some special Pearl Jam recordings.

“Back in the ’90s bootleg CDs were a real hot commodity and hard to find,” he said. At the time, he lived in Duncan and would have to drive to Victoria, when he had a few bucks in his pocket, to find new, obscure live recordings.

“I remember going to Lyle’s all the time and heading straight to the glass case where the rare things were. Lyle’s was my go-to place and the staff was always really good.”

Wilcox, who now lives a few blocks from Lyle’s, said a few years ago he took his nephew to the store to get his vinyl collection started.

“It’s really sad to see it go,” he said. “There’s something really cool about walking into a record store, there’s the smell of vinyl and it’s a little grungy and you’ve got to dig around a little.”

Mike Smith-Knutsen, who worked at Lyle’s between 2002 and 2013, said the store was definitely more than just the things it did.

“It felt like home,” said the Edmonton native. He said what he remembers most are the people, both the staff and owners, and customers who would come through the door with multiple generations. “There were so many people who would bring their kids and their grandkids in some cases.”

Lyle’s was often the only place to get independent releases from local bands, he said. “Lyle even started his own record label and put out some stuff that otherwise you just couldn’t get.”

Jamie Fulton, who worked at Lyle’s for 27 years before moving on about 10 years ago, said it is sad to see it ending, but the Lyles might feel it is time to take a well-deserved break. “It was definitely a Victoria institution,” he said. “It was very much a tight-knit family, for lack of a better word,” he said. “And what made the job great was to be able to get to know people and share suggestions and find out what was moving anyone at any time.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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