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Taz still spinning after 40 years

Popular 90s hip-hop graphic designer creates iconic record store’s 40th anniversary poster

4 min read
A man with frizzy shoulder length shares a laugh behind the cash desk as he crosses his arms at Taz Records store in Halifax.
caption Robert Potoroka, an employee at Taz Records in Halifax serves customers at the cash desk on a Tuesday afternoon in November.
Molly MacNaughton

Joel Plaskett Emergency plays through the speakers at Taz Records on Grafton Street.

Owner Jimmy Donnelly sits in his office. It’s packed with vinyl — on the floor, on the shelves and on his desk. He’s owned the store for around a decade. 

Jimmy Donnelly, the owner of Taz Records in Halifax, sits in his office chair while flipping through records in a crate on the floor.
caption Jimmy Donnelly, owner of Taz Records, flips through records in his office. He does everything: ordering, receiving, payroll, bookkeeping and he’s even known to change the garbage.
Molly MacNaughton

“It started with Bob selling records at the quad at Dalhousie,” says Donnelly.

Bob Switzer, known for being an “old fart,” says Donnelly, was the original owner and mastermind behind Taz Records. He passed away in 2005. 

When Donnelly was a kid growing up in Halifax he remembers flipping through the 45s at Taz on Argyle Street, the original location. 

“It was quite tiny. Cigarette stained and cramped but it was fun, a lot of fun,” says Donnelly about when Switzer was still running the business.

“I had some 45s and I was like, ‘Hey Bob, do you know how much these are?’ And I have a memory of him wiping off the dust with his arm hairs and I thought that was disgusting and spectacular at the same time,” says Donnelly.

Switzer is reimagined in the latest music poster for Taz’s 40th anniversary. Pen & Pixel, the design firm for No Limit Records, Cash Money Records, and Suave House Records, created the artwork.

In 2003 the company closed, but came back in 2020 to design cover art for 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s Savage Mode II.

Taz Records 40th anniversary poster shows founder, Bob Switzer smiling down upon his record store where gold bars, gems, records and two lion statues sit. Music albums float around. Fireworks shoot in the sky above Switzer's head. Nov. 14, 2023.
caption Bob Switzer is the centrepiece of Pen & Pixel’s poster, which hangs in the record store he founded.
Molly MacNaughton

Donnelly tracked down the graphic design firm’s co-owner a few years ago. He’s been creating original poster designs for Donnelly ever since. They’re displayed high on the walls below the ceiling of the record store. The 40th anniversary posters are free for anyone to pick up.

Posters, CD’s, turntables, and pop culture items are some of the many items they sell, but vinyl “absolutely dominates,” says Donnelly.

According to a report from MRC Data, a distributor of music and entertainment information, in 2021, 1.1 million vinyl records were sold in Canada — almost a 22 per cent increase from 2020. The top selling vinyl albums in 2021 were Adele’s 30, Harry Styles’ Fine Line, Taylor Swift’s Evermore and Red (Taylor’s Version) and The Tragically Hip’s Saskadelphia.

“It’s different than pulling out your phone. It’s almost like a retro ritual, I guess you could say. There’s just something special about it,” says customer Jaimie Hepditch, referring to the vinyl experience. 

Jaime Hepditch flips through records at Taz Records on Grafton Street in Halifax. She's wearing a purple and blue jacket while smiling as she pulls up a record to read the album cover.
caption Jaimie Hepditch listens to everything but country. Her favourite band is Slipknot.
Molly MacNaughton

It’s Hepditch’s first time at Taz. She’s shopping for herself and looking for a Christmas gift for her mom. Last year they received record players for Christmas. 

“I listen to literally everything except country and unfortunately people don’t like that answer, but it’s true.”

She decided to stop in because she passes the store on the bus every day. Hepditch says she’s definitely coming back.

“You can’t come in here and leave unhappy,” says Donnelly. 

“I think a lot of people have the idea of a record store, you’re going to get an older clientele, and it’s really everybody at every age,” says Ben Mason, an employee at Taz Records.  

Mason has been working at Taz for a year and a half. He used to manage five different HMV stores, a Canadian entertainment retailer owned by Hilco. Mason says this is “by far the best spot” he’s worked. 

“It’s a good atmosphere. It’s kind of a cool vibe. Staff are great and they work really hard to try and find new things if they don’t have it in the store,” says Jon Hopkins, a customer of 10 years. 

“They’re probably the best store for picking up vinyl, new or used.” 

“You just have to work it to death,” says Donnelly when talking about the success of Taz. 

Taz Records is also located on the Bedford highway and has a shop in Dartmouth with Juno award-winning and Halifax-based musician Joel Plaskett, called Morley’s Coffee. 

“We’ve moved locations quite a few times but we just seem to grow and grow with every move,” says Mason.

Taz officially turned 40 in September.

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About the author

Molly MacNaughton

Molly is originally from Digby, N.S. She's in her fourth year of the BJH program. She once covered a story about a murder; a murder of crows...

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