Stuart Goldberg admits he was less than fulfilled driving a van around all day, stocking as many as 12 convenience stores and bodegas with candy.
Like many in his 30s, he started reflecting.
“Whatever happened to that record store we were going to open?” he asked a friend one day in his East Meadow home. And with that, the seeds of Mr. Cheapo CDs were sown.
Goldberg, 62, opened the first Mr. Cheapo in 1981 in Flushing with $4,000 he had saved from his candy route. Three years later the Mineola store opened, and three years after that Goldberg moved out of the Flushing location and into Commack, where he now lives.
The Mr. Cheapo franchise turned 30 on April 17. The stores have held their own against the Amazon and iTunes boom, providing a combination of current CD releases and old-school favorites on vinyl and cassette.
“Sadly, it’s getting to that point when the [mom and pop] stores are dwindling down,” Syosset’s Tom Manno, 34, said as he he was browsing in the Commack Mr. Cheapo. “This place, I like digging through boxes, I like seeing what’s there. Stores like this have something you can’t get at a Tower, or a Best Buy. There’s culture to this.”
Goldberg and his son, Joshua, 29, said their profits have remained the same in spite of the digital boom and a deep recession, and they attribute that to committed customers like Manno.
“We have an amazing amount of regulars,” said Stuart Goldberg. “You’d think this is ‘Cheers!’”
Above, Stuart Goldberg goes through some of the selections in his Commack location of Mr. Cheapo. (May 5, 2011)