Library of Articles

  • Library: Articles

Mandolin Brothers business sold; Island store to close, brand will live online Print-ready version

by Tracey Porpora
silive.com
February 20, 2017

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Once stocked with more than 1,000 rare and expensive stringed instruments, there are only 12 guitars and banjos left on the wall of Mandolin Brothers in West Brighton.

The shop -- opened in 1971 on the Forest Avenue retail strip by the late Stan Jay -- sold instruments to musical greats like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney. As word got around, especially via Mitchell's "A Song for Sharon," which mentions Mandolin Brothers, the shop became "the place" to snag a "find" in the world of stringed instruments.

"We were really 'it' for hard-to-find instruments, mainly mandolins. There aren't that many places in New York that do that," said Alison Reilly, who has run the business with her brother, Eric Jay, since their father's death.

After more than a year of searching for the "right owner" -- one who would mimic their late father's great love and knowledge of rare stringed instruments -- Reilly and Jay have secured a buyer.

SOLD TO THE 'RIGHT OWNER'

The buyer, who is in the process of purchasing the Mandolin Brothers brand, is a California-based avid collector and seller of fine stringed instruments, said Reilly.

While the brick and mortar shop -- housed in a building owned by Jay and Reilly --will close within three weeks time, the business will continue to exist online via the new owner.

"The buyer is the type of person who bought and sold instruments for most of his adult life. He never had a brick and mortar store, and was looking for a brand," said Jay.

"He was a magical, ideal candidate for what we were looking for," he added.

OTHER OFFERS

While Reilly said a few prospective buyers made offers to buy the business over the last two years, none possessed the qualities she and her brother felt were necessary to continue their father's legacy.

"My father's love and dedication to the store was really what brought him happiness," said Reilly.

"The new buyer is very nice and shares the passion for this (instruments) that my father had," she added.

Said Jay: "My father found out in college that he could make money buying and selling musical instruments. In the 1970s he found himself with a good collection of instruments, which attracted some famous people, like Joni Mitchell, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Word just spread after that."

FUTURE WAS UNCLEAR

The shop's future has been unclear since Stan Jay died in October 2014 after a battle with Mantle Cell Lymphoma.

Jay and Reilly gained support from the community when they decided to try to run the shop, which they worked in since they were teenagers, on their own.

In 2015, the section of Forest Avenue was even named "Stan Jay Way."

But after a few financial setbacks, including a crashed server, they decided to embark on the search for a new owner.

In the meantime, the Jay family allowed their inventory to peter out.

"We have remained open for the last year and a half without reordering new stock," said Jay.

A CHANGING INDUSTRY

Mandolin Brothers first saw a decrease in sales during the recession, as any type of collecting is often viewed as a luxury purchase.

"The necessity for brick and mortar has been going down for a long time," said Jay.

At the same time, internet shopping rose in popularity. The ability to buy virtually any item from your mobile device has affected the business of selling instruments the way it has already impacted other industries, from apparel to shoes.

In fact, Lane Music Center on New Dorp Lane also shut it's doors last month after 45 years in business.

END OF AN ERA

The Jay family has "mixed feelings" about the closure of the brick and mortar store.

"If we were closing right after my father's death, that thought would have given me a lot of emotional anxiety," said Reilly.

"At this point, it's been so long, I'm looking for it (the business) to get to the next step. There is still some emotion tied to it though," she added,

The Jay family plans to renovate the storefront and rent the space, said Jay.

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Comments on Mandolin Brothers business sold; Island store to close, brand will live online

Comment using your Facebook profile, or by registering at this site.

You must be registered and log in to add a permanently indexed comment.

Facebook comments