A small but steady stream of people gathered out front of J&R Music and Computer World in disbelief Thursday afternoon, many hoping to browse the stores’ renowned collection of CDs and vinyl records.
After its 1971 opening, the multimedia superstore established a following of life-long customers who were sad to find its revolving doors barred with little explanation.
“Frankly, it’s the end of an era for me,” said a longtime distributor and customer of J&R who wished to remain anonymous.
A distributor since 1989, she came to see the doors closed with her own two eyes, and to snap a few farewell pictures. “We knew things were winding down, but it’s sad,” she said.
Other J&R shoppers were more surprised than that, finding little solace in the vague posters announcing a possible re-opening date for 2015. The non-descript flyers claim that J&R will reopen into an “unprecedented retailing concept and social mecca,” and that the building will have to be “totally reimagined and redeveloped.”
Whether J&R will reopen as something different remains to be seen, however this will be the first time in its 43-year history that the store will not maintain a physical presence in the city. It had an outpost in Herald Square at one time, but that closed down about two years ago.
“I was 9 years old when I started shopping here. Unfortunately for me, I don’t buy things online, I buy them in person,” said Joe Brunner, a 35-year-old computer trader living on the Upper West Side who hoped to purchase a new laptop at J&R on Thursday.
Anthony Mays, a computer operator from Harlem, will miss the store for more than its “close to wholesale costs,” reminiscing on a number of artist performances he has seen over the years in neighboring City Hall Park, all hosted by J&R.
“We’re going to miss one of the focal point in lower Manhattan for all the summer shows they put on in City Hall Park,” Mays said. “This was one of the last, true places you could go and get a CD."
Speculation as to why the fabled store closed continued among crestfallen consumers out front, “The business they got from all the World Trade Center workers was huge, they’ve never been able to get back on their feet since 9/11," said a customer who only wanted to be identified as Robin, of the Upper East Side, who worked in the Twin Towers and frequented the store along with many others before 9/11 changed the landscape of the neighborhood.
“Everyone used to come on their lunch hour back then.”
“It’s ridiculous as far as I'm concerned, I've been coming here since 1971,” said long-time customer Jason Jenkins, a 62-year-old retired Brooklynite who now lives in New Jersey.
“There’s no place left to buy records and CDs anymore, there’s not a variety of music in New York City anymore, everything is online.”
For some, nostalgia was as much a part of the experience as convenience, this has been my go-to for games, technology, and media for as long as I remember,” said Roger Helgeson, a 34-year-old business analyst who first began shopping at J&R as a kid with his father.
One customer in particular was a shade angrier than the rest. Catherine Koutnouyan stood outfront with a $65 credit to the store, frustrated and left wondering, “How do I get my money back?”
She, like many others, won't get the explanation she hopes for from the confusing posters plastered across the Park Row entrance.