Holdout Record Store Owner Uses Social Security Checks to Stay Open

By Meredith Hoffman on September 30, 2013 9:52am 

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — Every morning Harry Masanave opens his Grand Street store early and watches over an overflowing collection of $1 cassettes, salsa CDs and records from the 1950s.

Shiree Records is on a strip known for its quick turnover, in an industry struggling to stay afloat, but Masanave has kept his shop open for 32 years — and he has no plans to close.

"I sell cowboy music, salsa music, American music, hip-hop...My dad was a record producer and he taught me how to sell music," Masanave said. "Everybody knows me here...I treat everybody equal."

Locals praise Masanave's "unparalleled music selection" and his kindness to customers, but neither his expertise nor his business prowess keep the shop going. He said he relies on family support, savings and benefit checks.

"I'm living on my Social Security, and somebody helps me out," Masanave said, adding that his landlord keeps his rent low since he's been there so long. 

Irene Morel, Masanave's friend and neighbor in the public housing complex a block away, said the Masanave dedicates his life to Shiree Records.

"He wouldn't know what to do without this place," said Morel, 74.

Masanave is credited with providing an invaluable music resource, especially as other shops shutter.

"We've been looking for record stores all day...We went across the Williamsburg Bridge and this was the first we stumbled upon," said shop visitor Joe Garwig, visiting New York from Ohio.

Shiree Records has "music nobody else has" that keeps customers coming back for more, Morel said.

Masanave, who first opened a record shop in the Bronx in the 1960s, said the music business has been a part of his identity for as long as he can remember.

"When I was a little kid I always listened to guitars and trombones," Masanave recalled. "My brother started a little [record] store and then I put a little store in the Bronx."

Masanave, whose dad is from France and mother is from Spain, started selling only American music but began selling Spanish music too because it was so popular.

His brother runs a wholesale record company in Florida and sends him music to stock his shop.

Masanave may be earning no profit, but he said he loves his store.

"I don't make money but I'm happy," he said.

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