On the heels of the closure of Kim’s Video & Music, it was somewhat heartening, on Tuesday, to see another beloved vinyl shop being embraced by its community – albeit three years after it closed in Bed-Stuy.
Over 50 people gathered for the unveiling of the “Birdel’s Records Way” sign that now sits at Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street. The block, stretching from that intersection to Atlantic Ave., was renamed to commemorate the neighborhood music store that Hardy “Joe” Long owned and operated for nearly 50 years.
“I always prayed that I would be able to have my name put on the street–Birdel’s Records,” said Long, in a video interview with News 12 Brooklyn.
Long’s shop was home to a wealth of vinyl records and, eventually, tapes and CDs. R&B, soul and funk icons like Patti LaBelle, Al Green and James Brown were known to visit Birdel’s over the years. Rapper Biggie Smalls, who grew up in Bed-Stuy on St. James Pl., would comb through Long’s records to find songs to rhyme over.
Despite the decline in popularity of vinyl and the advent of other formats, Birdel’s remained active for nearly seven decades. But the 21st-century pressures–digital formats, cheap mass production and piracy–facing the recording industry were too big an obstacle for even big music retailers such as Tower Records and Sam Goody. Much to the disappointment of the local community, Birdel’s closed in 2011. Now, in its place sits a jeweler and pawn shop.
While vinyl records are certainly not the norm these days, they have found a niche market in trendy young adults and devout vinyl purists. Gloria Bett, a 57-year resident of Bed-Stuy and a customer of Birdel’s, remarked, “All the things we used to do are coming back.”
The massive music collection and celebrity visits to Birdel’s were certainly loved, but it was the welcoming spirit that made it such a celebrated business.
Though the shop has been out of business for three years now, people continue to miss it. “I still get calls to make CDs,” said DJ Master Joe Love, a former employee at Birdel’s Records.
On Tuesday, friends and family surrounded a joyous Long to salute his achievement. Despite her sadness over the store’s closing, Bett was pleased with the street renaming and Long as a community member. “He deserves it… [He’s an] honest, very loving person.”
Before the unveiling of the new sign, Long spoke about leaving a legacy for his family.
As he counted down to the big moment, his grandson held the string to the sign’s cover and a large, camera-wielding crowd prepared for the reveal. Given the joy that filled the eyes of the people, both young and old, it’s likely that Birdel’s Records will remain a pride of a Bed-Stuy for many years to come.