J&R Music Shutters After 43 Years as Lower Manhattan Icon

J&R Music and Computer World, a fixture in lower Manhattan since it started as a basement record shop in 1971, is closing its doors.

An evolution in the music and technology industries forced owners Joe and Rachelle Friedman to shut the store and do something else with the space, they said in a statement.

“A lot has changed in these 43 years, including not only the way we listen to music and the technology products we sell, but the way people shop and socialize,” they said.

To say the least. The Web has disrupted plenty of industries, though probably none more than J&R’s core businesses of selling music, DVDs and electronics. About a third of these purchases are already made online, and that may double by 2020, according to research firm Kantar Retail. J&R will continue to sell items through its own website and Amazon.com.

In its heyday, J&R was a beacon for audiophiles and considered a must-see store for tourists visiting lower Manhattan. J&R, which featured everything from cameras to vinyl records, had survived the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the nearby World Trade Center. The store was closed for six weeks following the 2001 attack while employees cleaned up debris and police barricades kept customers out of the area.

J&R isn’t the only brick-and-mortar retailer that’s struggled to adapt. As more entertainment goes digital and shoppers become increasingly comfortable buying big-ticket items like televisions online, Best Buy Co. and other electronics chains are trying to chart a new course.

‘Social Mecca’

The future of J&R’s five-story building on Park Row remains murky. Though they didn’t give specifics, the owners said they will rebuild the store into an “unprecedented retailing concept and social mecca.” They also thanked customers, staff and vendors for their service.

Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for the owners, would only add that the plan is to open a business “involving electronics” some time in 2015.

On social media today, fans lamented the store’s demise -- and the end of New York’s once-vibrant music-shop scene.

“If J&R is closing,” Daniel Kelley, a Twitter user from New York, said on the site, “are there officially no more places to physically buy music in Manhattan?”

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