The famous 40-year-old family-run business opens a megastore for parents this month.
It’s a brisk day in early January at J&R Jr. and Jason Friedman is showing his wife and kids what has kept him so busy for the past six months. The space isn’t quite finished, shelves are only partially stocked and luggage still lingers in the performance area, but a gaggle of happy children tinkering with a wooden train set hint at what it will feel like on February 13th when the ribbon is cut and the landmark store’s newest department officially opens.
Originally a part-time venture selling records out of a downtown Manhattan basement, J&R was founded in 1971 by Joe and Rachelle Friedman using the money they had received as wedding gifts. They soon combined Joe’s interest in electronics and Rachelle’s interest in music—not to mention their first initials—to create what has become the famous Manhattan music and electronics megastore. Since then, the business has grown to cover everything from guitars and home theaters to housewares. It’s also a cultural destination with intimate performances inside and free concerts every summer outside in City Hall Park, just across the street from their block-long hub.
Growing up in such a musical environment led Joe and Rachelle’s son, Jason, to develop a strong interest in music himself. “I grew up being the lucky kid to get to meet all these rock stars,” he recalls. Some of the many legends that have passed through the store include Michael Jackson, Harry Connick, Jr., Tony Bennett and Beyoncé.
During the dot-com boom, Jason decided to build a website for his parents’ store. “Everybody was saying ‘You have to get your business online,’ but nobody really knew what that meant,” he recalls. Today, JR.com makes up more than half of the company’s business.
In August 2001, Friedman left to attend business school at the University of Southern California, just weeks before September 11th. Because J&R is only a few blocks from Ground Zero, the events of that tragic day hit the company hard. Friedman made the quick decision to come home and help restart the family business.
For the complete story, please head to New York Family.
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