Hall of Fame - Joe and Rachelle Friedman
It also taught this long-time New Yorker that certain tenets of business are without exception. "There's always new technology to keep up with," she noted. "It's as important as having enough space to showcase it. We can showcase it properly. We started off with computers as a department, then opened a dedicated store. The same [happened] with cameras with a digital department." She acknowledged that being in such close proximity to Wall Street assures you that there are no guarantees in the market. As a result, she wanted to at least be sure J&R was ahead of the competition. For instance, when home entertainment stores were still investing heavily in VHS, Friedman took notes from her computer operations. "We saw the computer people were buying DVDs," she said. "We saw how much potential they had." J&R became one of the first retailers to offer DVDs to movie-buying audiences, and one of the first to phase out VHS stock.
While Friedman is proud of her good instincts, she also believes that a successful retailer must maintain a storefront, even in heady dot-com days. She said that brick-and-mortar, mail-order and a Web presence are integral to the CE world. "Most of our catalog requests come from the Web," she said. "The mail-order business started 29 years ago," when she was pregnant with her eldest son, Jason. Years later, Jason was the one who started Web operations, believing that the Web would not cannibalize business. They were right. Even in tough times, the retailer could still moderately operate the Web and mail-order business, allowing them to pay their employees during down-time.
As it turned out, there would also be perks, of which Friedman's wall of fame is a testament. She's proudest of having met Michael Jackson (the photo is displayed on her desk), as well as Bruce Springsteen, and the many other artists who have participated in the company-sponsored concert series in City Hall Park across the street from J&R. "We made it a point of not expanding beyond this block," said Friedman. "Every year we have a jazz festival" that's included Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock and Kenny G. She puts a lot of credence in learning about the people who make the music. She credits her sales staff as having the same passion. "If you walk into the classical department," said Friedman, "you'll find a salesperson who knows and loves classical music as much as you do."