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J&R Debuts Kid-Friendly Shop Downtown

By Julie Shapiro | February 13, 2012 5:32pm
Isla Lo Presti, 20 months old, played at J&R Jr. on its opening day Feb. 13, 2012.
Isla Lo Presti, 20 months old, played at J&R Jr. on its opening day Feb. 13, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — J&R is eyeing a new customer base: kids.

The Downtown electronics giant launched a new child-focused shop Monday that aims to become not just a retail outlet but also a community center.

The 15,000-square shop, called J&R Jr., features everything from picture books to $850 strollers, but also has a playpen, video game consoles and a classroom that will host art and music classes.

"There are lots of stores in TriBeCa with kids' stuff," said Jason Friedman, executive vice president of J&R, "but not anywhere you can walk in with a stroller and plop yourself down for two hours."

To make families comfortable, J&R Jr. offers a separate stroller entrance, a "lactation lounge" for breast-feeding moms and restrooms equipped with changing tables and free baby wipes.

Another unique feature is in the stroller section, where parents can test the strollers on special surfaces that mimic cobblestones, grass and shag carpeting, to get a sense of how well the strollers handle uneven ground.

Friedman got the idea for J&R Jr. from Lower Manhattan's continuing baby boom. In 2010, the neighborhood saw 1,086 new babies and had the highest birth rate of any part of the borough, according to city figures.

"This is the fastest growing community in all of Manhattan," said Friedman, who lives on the Upper East Side and has a 5-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. "We wanted to create an inviting space for residents to gather."

Friedman carved out the new store, serving children from birth to age 9, from an existing second-story space at 1 Park Row, which was previously used to sell software.

The name for J&R Jr. comes from Friedman's nickname when he was growing up, as the son of J&R founders Joe and Rachelle Friedman. Originally a music and electronics shop, the megastore celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

One of the first customers during Monday morning's ribbon cutting was Borough President Scott Stringer, who picked up a copy of "Cat in the Hat" and an "I Love New York" onesie for his two-month-old son.

"As a new father, I'm especially excited to celebrate the opening of J&R Jr. and welcome it to the neighborhood," Stringer said. 

The range of arts products impressed Ana Chan, 42, a Fulton Street resident who stopped by the store's opening day with her 20-month-old daughter Isla Lo Presti. Isla enjoyed the shop too, zooming a small red train car around a set of wooden tracks.

"It's not like your run-of-the-mill Babies 'R' Us," Chan said. "We really need this."