Once among the worlds’ greatest guitar shops, Mandolin Brothers in New York City may soon be shutting its doors forever.
A buyer is sought for the storied institution known as a “dream fulfillment center.”
After the death of founder Stan Jay in October 2014, the younger generation has taken on efforts to revitalize the venerable shop in Staten Island, where George Harrison wandered in one day to buy a ukulele some twenty years after Joni Mitchell wrote a song about buying a mandolin there. But Stan told me hers was actually a mandocello.
Unfortunately, neither of Stan’s children nor his widow have the expertise in fine fretted instruments that Stan did. And with the economy far from recovered, they have come to the conclusion that Mandolin Brothers will have to cease operations unless they can find someone to buy the business.
I know that Rudy Pensa of that other NYC institution, Rudy’s Music, had paid the family a visit recently. I assumed it was concerning just such a purchase, either of the entire business, or some of their existing stock should they close their doors. It would difficult to find a better, more passionate guitar man as Rudy, who not only sells guitars but builds them for world-class players like Mark Knopfler.
But it would be better yet if there was a way to keep this musical ark afloat. The first public notice of the the issues facing the Jay family appeared at the Mandolin Cafe website in October and a print article appeared in the November 2 issue of Crain’s New York Business publicly announcing the goal of finding a buyer.
It is hard to believe it is almost two years since Stan, Rudy, and I stood talking together at the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit on early American guitars. It is hard to believe it has been over twenty years since I purchased the first of many guitars at Mandolin Brothers.
The cultural fabric of New York City is constantly changing with the only surety being nothing lasts forever, except dreams and memories. Mandolin Brothers fulfilled many of the former and created many more of the other.
I can only wish for Bea Jay and her children Eric and Alison to have all their hard work pay off for them. But regardless of the outcome, Stan’s legacy remains in the hearts and hands of musicians the world over, even if his very special shop is retired to history.