— J&R Music & Computer World has been named best A/V specialty dealer in TWICE’s annual Excellence in Retailing Awards, and with good reason: The privately held company, now nearing 40, has survived cutthroat competition and even the horrors of 9/11 to become an institution in the nation’s toughest retail market.
The family-held business was founded in 1971 by Joe and Rachelle Friedman (the “J” and “R” of J&R), who opened a record shop on Park Row in lower Manhattan. The company later expanded into hardware, including A/V, IT, digital imaging, musical instruments, housewares, and personal care and health items, and extended its storefronts to form a block-long emporium by City Hall, which it supplemented with catalog, phone and online sales.
The stores have become a destination for tourists, celebrities, politicians and everyday New Yorkers, who are drawn to their expansive selection, knowledgeable sales staff, competitive prices and special events, including concerts, seminars, product expos and autograph signings — the most recent being last month’s in-store appearance by singer John Legend.
The loyalty of customers, vendors and New York City was demonstrated in the wake of 9/11 when the business, located a block from Ground Zero, was shut for six weeks as J&R removed dust, repaired a storefront commandeered by firefighters, and waited for the area to re-open to traffic. Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani officiated at the grand reopening, which served as a metaphor for New York’s resiliency. “I buy all my CDs here,” he quipped, while president/co-CEO Rachelle Friedman thanked everyone for their overwhelming support. “Our loyal customers have a lot of pent-up feeling,” expressed through emails and delayed purchases, she told TWICE, and manufacturers sent more than 50 bouquets. “Every vendor asked, ‘What can we do for you?’”
Today, with the exception of a 3,500-square-foot J&R Express satellite store in Macy’s Herald Square, the company continues to operate from its Park Row footprint, where it recently added a same-day delivery service for local customers. “We have 300,000 square feet of space,” Friedman said at the time of the Macy’s opening. “It’s hard to duplicate it elsewhere, and when dealers expand, they lose control.”
To what does the company owe its longevity? “J&R has always put the interests of their customers first, and we found that when they are happy they’re loyal,” Friedman noted. “We always listen to and anticipate what their needs are, and we are just as passionate about the products and technologies ourselves. We have always showcased the best and latest products, and we are an authorized dealer for whatever we sell. J&R maintains an exceptional level of customer service with a knowledgeable and friendly staff eager to help, with special attention given to every detail.”