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New Bedford Avenue Record Store Wants to Expand Your Musical Tastes

By Noah Hurowitz | September 18, 2017 11:47am
 Brian Thomas stands inside The Mixtape Shop, a new record store and cafe at 1129 Bedford Ave. in Bed-Stuy.
Brian Thomas stands inside The Mixtape Shop, a new record store and cafe at 1129 Bedford Ave. in Bed-Stuy.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A new record shop and cafe is offering music lovers coffee, pastries, and their next favorite artists on Bedford Avenue.

The Mixtape Shop, which opened in July, features a tightly curated selection of house, techno, funk, jazz, soul, and a healthy dose of music from Brazil, where husband-and-wife co-owners Brian Thomas and Erica Roden previously lived.

Located at 1129 Bedford Ave. between Madison and Monroe streets, the space includes a cafe, and a table for people to work or hang out, and is flooded with light from large windows in the front. It was designed as a departure from the more eclectic, dust-filled record shops of yore, a deliberate move intended to make it more welcoming to people peering in the plate-glass windows or coming in off the street, according to Roden.

“We wanted to create a space where people can spend time hanging out and listening to music with a welcoming vibe for people who don’t normally go into record shops” Roden said.

The relatively narrow selection might mean that someone coming in with a specific artist in mind won’t find that record, but Thomas hopes to connect those customers with something similar but off the beaten track, he said.

“If you’re looking for Stevie Wonder, we might not have that but I can give you something that if you love Stevie Wonder you’ll love this,” Thomas said. 

On a recent weekday, a handful of customers were browsing the bins, sipping coffee, and working at laptops in the shop, as a DJ spun records. Thomas, standing beneath a wall of records for sale, said the venture was years in the making.

“Our plan was always to have records and something else — a cafe, an event space, maybe a restaurant, he said. 

The endeavor began in 2009, when Thomas and another partner launched The Mixtape Club as an online hub for — you guessed it — mixtapes, inviting DJs and artists to submit tracks, with each “session” featuring 10 tracks along with a visual-art component, giving an analog feel to the online project.

That online platform was driven by a mission to help expose curious music lovers to new and underappreciated artists, a goal that continues with the brick-and-mortar version, along with catering to DJs and other music “nerds” with deep knowledge and niche tastes, Thomas said.

“There’s a lot of stuff here for the nerds, but as a continuation of Mixtape Club, we also wanted to share stuff with people who like to find new things but aren’t necessarily connoisseurs,” he said.

Thomas and Roden began working together on the Mixtape Club when they both were living in Brazil, where they would organize parties. After moving back to the States, they began branching into online record sales, dipping their toes into the business with low overhead in preparation for opening a physical space, which was always the goal, Thomas said.

They continued throwing the occasional party or pop-up event in Brooklyn, and earlier in 2017 they came across the vacant storefront on Bedford Avenue, realized they had struck gold, and started building it out.

Despite a number of venues closing in recent years, electronic music is experiencing something of a renaissance in New York, and the Mixtape Shop includes selections from local labels such as Bank Records, a small in Brooklyn.

And as a newcomer to the neighborhood's business community — Thomas himself has lived in Bed-Stuy for years — he said he hopes the shop can become integrated with the neighborhood as a whole, especially given the roots that many styles of dance music have in Latino, African-American, and Caribbean culture.

“A lot of people are curious about what we’re doing here, but every day more people are finding out about us,” he said. “We’re hoping to be able to really be a part of the neighborhood, and I think one good part is that a lot of our music is really rooted in the music that this area is known for.”