Magazine article The New Yorker

Junior

Magazine article The New Yorker

Junior

Article excerpt

Given that the area surrounding City Hall has the highest birth rate of any neighborhood in Manhattan, adding a kids' store to the strip of Park Row occupied by J&R Music and Computer World would seem to be a no-brainer, like wearable speakers for expectant mothers. ("Sharing music is a beneficial way for parents to connect with their babies in the womb," the manufacturer of Bellybuds explains.) At the grand opening, last month, of J&R Jr., the employees who normally check the receipt for the TV you just bought were checking strollers. "We'll take that, Ma'am," a guard said to one customer.

The weekend-long event featured face painting and a station where kids could get their pictures taken with Clifford the Big Red Dog, printed out on Hewlett-Packard printers (which were on sale in the adjoining J&R store). Mostly, though, kids just went nuts with the merchandise, as did parents: a Super Mario Kart enthusiastsevenish, red-haired, chewing on a toothpickblew away two preschool girls who sat dumbfounded in semi-inflated racecar chairs; a mom photographed a shelf of Dr. Seuss books with her iPhone; two grandparents whispered to each other in the child-safety-device area, which included video monitors and glow-in-the-dark doorknob covers. By 4:30 P.M. on Sunday, two tired stroller valets passed each other behind a shelf of laptop accessories on the first floor. "Almost done," one said.

At the ribbon-cutting, on Monday morning, the child customers were replaced by a small group of local business officials and politicians. Rachelle Friedman read from prepared remarks. Aside from being the "R" in J&R, Friedman is the co-C.E.O. of the company, which she founded forty years ago, with her husband, Joe; she's also a member of the Women in Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame. In 1971, she and Joe opened a record store, with money they got as a wedding gift. He was a ham radio operator from Flatbush who liked to hang out on Radio Row, an area of shops subsequently replaced by the World Trade Center, and she was one of the first women to attend the Polytechnic Institute of New York, studying chemistry and engineering. "I just liked experiments," she said. At the lectern, Rachelle recounted a little bit of J&R's recent history: following 9/11, she and Joe kept everyone on the payroll while the store was closed, when moving out of town might have been easier. …

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