The story of how Long & McQuade Musical Instruments became one of Canada’s premier specialty retailers is one of the founders that Jack Long has told time and time again. Even at 92, the humble Toronto native gets a glint in his eye when he recounts how the modest business he started in a tiny two-story house in 1956 is now spreading across the country.
Long’s mind is as sharp as a staccato emanating from his favorite instrument, the trumpet. The jazz enthusiast and former professional player has seen a lot happen just in the art form that has obsessed him since his youth. The other genres that emerged during this time, such as rock and roll and hip-hop, all had specific product needs. And in Canada, there hasn’t been a more reliable source than Long & McQuade. Long, who was named to the Order of Canada in 2014, insists he was mostly lucky, but a combination of common sense, intuition and a charitable heart had a lot more to do with his success than he did. no matter what naive good fortune.
Long & McQuade’s influence has spread to over 90 locations in all 10 provinces, but the GTA will always be at home. It all started at 100 Carlton Street distributing King Band instruments and giving music lessons. Long admits he didn’t even know what an invoice was at the time of his first sale, but turned out to be a very quick learner. A true retail store with his partner and drummer in demand Jack McQuade (who left the company in 1965 and died of cancer 11 years later), followed on Yonge Street, where the library is now located. Toronto benchmark. Long & McQuade’s current head office is in Pickering, still a family business.
As the store took off, Long was still performing every night in places like the Barclay Hotel, where, after working long hours, he says, “I fell asleep several times during the shows. Instrument rental became the lifeblood of the business after musician friends came over to hang out and asked if they could borrow a piece of equipment for the night. Long made up of prices on the spot: “If it was small, three dollars.” Four dollars, if it was bigger.
Even as the business grew, Long says he “was more serious about playing gigs,” but admits there was a time when he thought it might be “a thing.” real business “. “If it didn’t work,” he laughed, “I would be in big trouble.
From Gordon Lightfoot to Shawn Mendes, a who’s who of big names has been a Long & McQuade clientele for eight decades – not to mention the countless newbies, weekend warriors and pros who are just as important to all the staff. and instructors from Long & McQuade. . Indeed, the famous Neil Peart kit which sold for half a million dollars at auction in December 2020 was bought from Long & McQuade ahead of the drummer’s first tour with Rush.
Long’s business philosophies aren’t one that would work well for nearly every other industry in retail – removing barriers to buying so that inventory can get into the hands of as many customers as possible through leasing or affordable financing would be unheard of for many startups these days. .
Long’s sons Steve and Jeff, respectively CEO and VP of Sales and Marketing, carry on their father’s legacy. Both said that being fair to everyone they deal with is a trait they proudly inherited from their father. As for Long, he’s always had an innate ability to relate to creative individuals of every generation, even “young rock kids,” he says.
“As long as it’s music they were making.”