Barry U was originally run by Count Shelly’s brother but after the Count returned to Jamaica, his brother took over Super Power and his nephews took over Barry U. The original spot was on Church Ave., close to NY Ave., but in the mid-nineties they moved down Church, closer to Flatbush on the same block as the legendary Biltmore Ballroom. Unfortunately within a year or so of this move, the Biltmore Ballroom closed. I think that when Super Power started to lose steam, Barry U took over the soundman crowd, as they always had the latest 45′s, and never slipped up. They would stock up on certain big tunes and would be able to continue selling them after all the other stores ran out. In addition to the record business, they devoted the front half of the store to greeting cards which, surprisingly, seemed to do well and certainly brought a few female customers into the shop. Barry U also had a label which put out quite a few singles as well as albums by Sluggy Ranks, George Nooks, and others. I can’t remember exactly what year they closed up, but I think it was around 2004 or so, maybe earlier. When they closed, most of the crew migrated down to Super Power , which closed down a couple of years later. Barry U was a solid store run by decent people and when they closed, you could see that the writing was on the wall for the NY record store scene. Barry U, R.I.P.
Gotta start with the big dogs. Super Power held the title as the best record store in NY for a long stretch of time under the rule of the great Count Shelly. After he returned to Jamaica the store was run by the remaining family in NY, and it gradually faded away until its doors finally closed with a whisper in 2008. During it’s impressive 20 odd year run they operated as a record shop, distributor, and label. As a label Super Power released the bulk of Jammy$ catalog in the eighties, as well as other top producers throughout the eighties and nineties. They also produced their own material which were released on the Shelly’s Records label, and spawned groundbreaking hits like Louie Rankin’s “Typewriter”, which is really the best example of early nineties NY dancehall, bridging the gap between hip hop and reggae. As a kid, Super Power was really the first real record store that I shopped at, and I can remember going into the 7 inch room when it was in full swing. You would have to fight to get a spot at the counter, and you would always see the biggest NY sounds like Addies, Afrique, LP, Libra Love, and even visiting sounds from Jamaica would have to go to Super Power, as they could always provide some selections that no one else had. Of course, as sound systems switched over to CD, and then computer, stores like Super Power were no longer the source for music, and became relegated to selling tickets, and various accessories, eventually leading to them closing shop. Record stores were really so much more than sources of music, they were the meeting points for the whole music community, and without them the whole scene has become really boring. Super Power R.I.P.