April 28, 2011 5:31pm Updated April 29, 2011 5:58am
By Julie Shapiro
The electronics store started with a 500-square-foot shop in 1971
LOWER MANHATTAN — When Joe and Rachelle Friedman opened a tiny gadget shop called J&R in 1971, they hoped to make a little extra money to support themselves.
Forty years later, the Park Row institution has expanded from a 500-square-foot storefront to a 300,000-square-foot empire, selling everything from iPads to the vinyl records that first earned the shop a loyal following.
"We never wanted to be the biggest retailer," Rachelle Friedman told a crowd of well-wishers gathered at the store Thursday morning. "We just wanted to be the best."
Over the years, the Friedmans constantly focused on innovation, opening the city's first record shop just for jazz lovers, and later the first Apple store-within-a-store in the country. They also built a reputation for strong customer service by delivering all special orders within 24 hours and recently opened a cafe to offer all electornics buyers a free cup of coffee. The Friedmans also became active members of the downtown community, maintaining a mom-and-pop attitude even as the business grew.
"This really is the heart and soul and center of our city," State Sen. Daniel Squadron said at Thursday's celebration. "It defines what you can do as a local business, but also as a business that's integral to the community."
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