At the desk of: Rachelle Friedman

The J&R co-founder on her Lady Gaga autographed piano, dinner with Michael Jackson and the 50-story Park Row condo the company is developing with L+M

Rachelle Friedman (Photo by Emily Assiran)
Rachelle Friedman (Photo by Emily Assiran)

Before Apple, Amazon, Google and Spotify dominated the music and tech scenes, there was J&R Music and Computer World.

The store, a New York City institution, opened across from City Hall in 1971 and ultimately grew its footprint to 300,000 square feet on Park Row.

Rachelle Friedman — who grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from what was then known as the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn — is the “R” in the J&R. She and her husband, Joseph Friedman (the “J”), counted some of the biggest names in the music business as customers and regular visitors. But over the years, they also began accumulating buildings and pushing further into the real estate business. And when J&R shuttered in 2014, the Friedmans doubled down on real estate. They are currently partnering with L+M Development Partners to build a 50-story condo tower. The tower topped out at the end of 2018 and is slated to open in the spring of 2020. The Friedmans also own 1 Park Row and have a stake in 15 Park Row, where their office is located.

A small, locked room there is filled with guitars, microphones, drumskins and more — autographed by the likes of Tony Bennett, Kenny Loggins, Billy Joel and countless others. Gold and platinum records from artists ranging from Mariah Carey to Andrea Bocelli line the walls. “A lot of these artists were just starting out and promised to come back when they made it big — and some of them really did,” said Friedman.

25 Park Row shovel

This shovel is from the ground-breaking of 25 Park Row, which will house 110 units and has a projected sellout of $436 million. The condo, which is being designed by CookFox Architects, is the Friedmans’ biggest real estate undertaking to date. The company converted 15 Park Row into 300-plus rentals in the 1990s and is now developing 1 Park Row into a boutique condo building, though Friedman declined to reveal her partner or the timeline for the latter project.

Sony Walkman

This silver Tiffany & Co. Walkman was a gift from Sony on the 10th anniversary of its mobile cassette player. Friedman, who chaired the Music Business Association for eight years, was among a select few to receive the limited-edition item, which is now on display in a dark wooden case. Sony Music also gave J&R a silver Tiffany’s plate, signed by an array of artists, on the company’s 20th anniversary.

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Rudy Giuliani & scissors

J&R shut down for six weeks after the September 11 attacks. The store’s reopening was prompted by a call from Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s office. “They said, until you open, this area’s not going to get back to where it was,” Friedman recalled. These scissors, signed by Giuliani, were used for the ribbon cutting for the store’s reopening.

Signed Gaga piano

In 2011, J&R offered Lady Gaga this white grand piano to use on her “Monster Ball Tour.” The pop sensation accepted it, then returned it with her signature scrawled across the front. It is now a focal point in Friedman’s office, where she also has a pink and white desk.

Michael Jackson & invitation

The Friedmans attended a dinner at Michael Jackson’s (pre-Neverland) house in Encino (in Los Angeles) timed with the release of his “Bad” album in 1987. The framed invitation hangs on a wall in her office. “He went out of his way to make us comfortable,” she said, recalling that she also got a tour of Jackson’s home while there.

Painted guitars & portrait

Guitars, painted in bright hues, were a gift from artist Peter Max, who’s known for his vibrant visuals and portraits of celebrities, including former presidents. Max also painted a portrait of Friedman, which hangs on the wall above the guitars.