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Times Square Record Mart: Universidad de Música Latina

by Bernardo Ruiz and Eric Fichtl

In the pre-Giuliani days of New York, the Times Square Record Mart was a thriving center of Latin music. As Harry Sepulveda, buyer and manager of the Record Mart, put it, “this was a centro comunal—a communal center—for people from all over the world.” Native New Yorkers and visitors to the city alike remember the sounds of salsa and other Latin music that emanated from the tiny Record Mart, nestled in the through-fare between the N/R and IRT platforms in the Times Square subway station. The Mart was long considered a stopping point for major Latin talent, as well as a kind of library of Latin music. The store—all cramped, busy three aisles of it—was featured on CNN and CNBC and by the likes of NBC newscaster and former Young Lord leader Pablo Guzmán.

But due in part to Giuliani’s efforts to commercialize and streamline the Times Square area, the Record Mart, a New York City fixture for 40 years, was forced to close on February 28, 1999, making room for a station-wide renovation (part of a larger campaign to “beautify” New York). Sepulveda, who worked at the Record Mart for 27 years, explained that the store had been visited by the likes of Poncho Sanchez, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Puente, and Willi Colón, among others.

“Just the other day, before closing, a young producer who made ‘Ser puertorriqueño’ came by to give us a tape. It was just that kind of community,” commented Sepulveda. “There are so many Latinos here—New York is Latin America.”

At the time of its closing, the Record Mart had no new locale to move into, but had set up a web site at http://www.timesquarerecordmart.com [Note: Link no longer operational].




Post Script:
The website was short-lived, but in December 2007—following an eight year absence—the Record Mart managed to re-open in the Times Square Subway station, not far from the previous location. Sepulveda returned as a part-time buyer for the new shop.

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Published:
La Quinta Raza Broad Sheet/Hoja Grande
July-Sept 1999


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(also contains Spanish translation/PDF contiene texto en español también)



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