New York – J&R Music & Computer World has shut its showroom in Lower Manhattan today for what it describes as a conceptual overhaul.
The closely held specialty dealer, founded in 1971 by namesakes Joe and Rachelle Friedman, did not say when or if the store would reopen, and in an open letter posted on their website, the principals thanked customers, staff and vendors “for what has been an incredible 43 years.”
An artist’s rendering of a redesigned 1 Park Row, the company’s Lower Manhattan retail and headquarters complex, appears with the letter and is labeled 2015, but J&R signage is absent from the illustration.
According to a report in the New York Daily News, the store closure is permanent and the company will seek retail partners to redevelop the site. Employees were pink-slipped yesterday, the newspaper said, although the website remains transactional.
A source close to the Friedman family told TWICE that the e-commerce site, and sales through Amazon.com's third-party marketplace, will continue.
In their posting, the Friedmans said the buildings that comprise J&R will be “totally reimagined and redeveloped,” in order to rebuild the location into what they described as “an unprecedented retailing concept and social mecca.”
They said the decision to “reinvent” the company was prompted by technology, retailing and real estate trends, and cited changes in CE products and how consumers use them, shop for them and socialize.
The couple also acknowledged the “12 difficult rebuilding years” following the 9/11 attack that toppled the World Trade Center. Foot traffic and sales dissipated in the aftermath, and J&R, like most CE dealers, was further challenged by online competition and shrinking CE margins.
The company began as a basement record shop and grew into a storied retail destination drawing musicphiles, celebrities, guest performers and tourists. But last year it consolidated its block-long row of storefronts near New York’s City Hall to a single location, and shed employees and SKUs in an effort to reduce costs and recalibrate the business. The move followed a 9 percent drop in CE sales in 2012, to about $364 million, according to TWICE’s Top 100 CE Retailers Report.
More recently, J&R conceded that it was exploring strategic alternatives, and last month came close to selling its name and website to Brooklyn-based digital imaging dealer Focus Camera.
The Friedmans noted in their letter that Lower Manhattan “is finally ready to blossom,” and in fact two of the former J&R locations, which had been leased at 33-34 Park Row, were recently listed with a New York realtor for sale as a development site.
The couple thanked constituents for their patience and understanding during the transition period, but in what bears the tone of a farewell note, also expressed their gratitude to “customers, staff and vendors for what has been an incredible 43 years, and helping make J&R Music & Computer World the legendary iconic store that makes us so proud.”