Colony, New York

Colony Records New York shop bag

I was just going to post this typically American looking record shop bag which appears to be much older than it is (and one I can’t remember how I came by, I’ve certainly never been to New York.) The design imagery harks back to the fifties, especially the cheerleader, but when you check the Warners advert on the other side it lists albums from the late 1980s ( The Smith’s Rank came out in 1988), so (rather like that Paula Records 7″ sleeve we showed a while ago), they must have just kept the old design for so long it became knowingly retro. Also they have a thing about paper bags over there when in Europe plastic ruled from the mid-70s onwards.

Colony Records New York shop bag

But then I thought I’d try and find out more and discovered the shop opened just after the war in 1948 and lasted until September 2012, some 64 years. The store bag must be post-1970 as the store moved to this address (in the original Brill Building) that year. As well as (latterly) CDs and second hand vinyl, they also sold a massive selection of sheet music and music and film memorabilia and, being located in such a central location in the city’s Theatre district, was used by people in the music business a lot. The cheerleader was the shop’s logo, and a neon version lit up the facade of the building for many years. The image below corresponds closely to the drawing on the bag, though in a tradition going back many years, the facade is elongated on the drawing.

Colony Records New York facade

Begun by Harold Grossbardt and Sidney Turk, whose sons were still running it at the time of closure. There is talk of a documentary about the shop being planned (they filmed many of the visitors who called by in the run up to closure) but I’m not sure if this ever got made. However, digging a little further online you quickly begin to get another side to the story, with a lot of grumbles about the rude staff. Even allowing for the fact that the shop couldn’t compete on price with the web for new CDs, they do seem to have been overly greedy on second-hand stock. But then this sort of long-running eccentric store is in a masochistic way part of the fun of the old indie stores and I’ve seen similar attitudes in many London record stores (and from what I’ve seen and heard, NY is hardly a bastion of politeness at the best of times!).
The 1970 signage was all taken down in the last ten years and replaced, though the owners are said to have preserved the neon cheerleader. They made much of setting up an online outlet after closure but while there is a webpage, it is still ‘under construction’.
“The basement looked like a crackden. It smelled like cat pee, had records strewn about the floor, piles of paper everywhere, a pretty parrot in a cage (the lining needed changed), it was sweltering hot, a small, dusty box fan was on, but doing no good, BUT there were aisles and aisles of (possibly categorized) vinyl records….” Jeff, Brooklyn.

Colony Records New York basement

I found the two small shop images on the web uncredited, if the photographers get in touch I would be happy to credit (or remove if they want).

One Response to Colony, New York

  1. Kevin says:

    Yes, among the most difficult shop owners I have ever encountered. I remember once in 1972 trying to get them to pull out a Bill Evans record (95% of the stock was behind the counter) and they absolutely refused

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