A lament for New York’s last classical record store

A lament for New York’s last classical record store


norman lebrecht

January 07, 2014

A WQXR report on the closure of NYC’s last classical record outlet has brought out the white handkerchiefs for many loyal customers, among them conductor David Bernard:



A trip to NYC for me as a classical music obsessed music-geek child consisted of browsing scores at Patelsons and LPs at J&R Classical Record Store (it was called the J&R Classical Outlet back then). J&R was staffed with knowledgeable sales people (you know, people who could actually discuss the pros and cons of various releases of a Beethoven Symphony) and I would come home with a pile of LPs and scores, but more importantly the experience and knowledge that comes from browsing a full stock of classical items.

Back then, in the pre-Tower Records/HMV days, we would scoff at the meager stock of the typical record stores, and even Barnes and Noble & Sam Goody, which were more like “The Classical Music Bin” rather than the encyclopedic stock of the J&R Classical Outlet.

After a long hiatus, I stopped by the Classical section of J&R a few years ago and observed that the stock was a fraction of what it was, and you could see that it was on a downward spiral.

So now J&R is following Patelsons, Tower and HMV into oblivion. I guess we could all see it coming, but I can’t help feeling a bit sad about this.




  • David Boxwell says:

    Academy Records on West 18th Street is still going strong, at least.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Very sad. Remember the wonderful Tower records store near the Met. And their remainder store at the south end of Broadway. Sniff…

  • Don Ciccio says:

    The Juilliard bookstore had a decent collection as well last time I’ve been there (which, admittedly, has been a year or so ago…)

  • Eric says:

    There are still others, and Juilliard has a great collection to offer. But, yes, it’s sad about J&R

  • David Bernard says:

    I think it is important to highlight what made J&R different than the other record stores. While merchants like Sam Goody and Barnes and Noble (these were the heavy hitters back int he late 70s) as well as today’s brick and mortar CD shops today (including Juilliard) is that J&R housed COMPLETE or close to complete inventory of labels. If you were looking for a recording of, say, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, at a traditional merchant you would go to the Beethoven bin and start sifting through what was there. At J&R you would look at the Schwann catalog, find the catalog number for the specific album you are looking for, and search based on that number. Of course if they didn’t have what you were looking for in stock, they would order it (back then, without internet, that was what you relied on), but they had a very high hit rate.

    Plus, as I had mentioned, the staff was very knowledgable. You could have an intense discussion with them on the “best” recording of Tchaikovsky Fifth, etc. Certainly a different experience than any other retailer.

    Over the years, they reverted back to the “bin” system as all the others….

    • Skripach says:

      In the 1970s Sam Goody’s was close to complete as well, especially the far west side branch in the 40s (I forget exactly what street), that had old-style mavens presiding over the place. Record Hunter on 5th Ave. was no slouch either.

  • Richard Lee says:

    Its funny; I never bothered with Goodys or B&N much in 70’s. Between Record Hunter and the basement of Korvette’s, i managed to spend way too much of my paycheck.

  • squirrel says:

    Though I lament the loss of all CD stores around this city, the JR place was not very pleasant nor centrally located (unless you worked on Wall St. or at the Courthouse). It is a dusty, musty, relic of a space, with virtually no foot traffic. Weird security measures (guards in the staircases; sealed bags after purchase) reminded one of being in a shady adult theater in Times Square circa 1980. This one was a dinosaur, and had to go. The better question is: when’s the clearance sale.

    • Goran Sodervall says:

      Just the opinion you could expect from a hoarding type of collector! Squirrell’s comments are too much. Instead of agreeing with all the positive comments on the knowledgeable staff of J&R something which is sadly lacking today he/she is only interested in grabbing as much as possible

      at the clerance sale. Sad indeed!


  • Richard farmer says:

    I loved record hunter. There was always so much product to browse through.