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Harlem Record Shack, A Place That Matters

harlem record shack

Harlem Record Shack at 274 W. 125th St., Harlem, nominated by Bobby Sanabria.

Sikhulu Shange adopted NYC after coming here in 1964 to perform at the World’s Fair with a South African dance troupe. Four years later he opened the Harlem Record Shack, and four years after that moved the store to its present location, across the street from the Apollo Theater. All these years, he has been stocking the kinds of music that he and his customers have loved, whether or not the big companies or stores recognized its value. At the end of this month, the Record Shack will lose its lease, and Mr. Shange is trying to prevent it.

Record stores like the Record Shack function like community centers for music and culture. Their knowledgeable proprietors, unusual inventory, and willingness to sell what might not be popular yet make them valuable. But discount stores, digital downloading, and development pressures are nearly doing them in. Bobby’s Happy House lost its right-off-125th St. location in January after being in business since 1946. Casa Amadeo (est. 1941, listed to the National Register of Historic Places) is struggling against outsized rent increases. One piece of good news is that Record Mart, a legendary Latin music store in the Times Square subway station, just re-opened after 9 years.