A group of artists and musicians gathered in a small vintage record shop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn last Thursday to connect the younger generations with the old through a celebration of music.
The group was small but lively and steadily growing with each week. The shop, which is filled with antiques, cultural items, clothing, posters and over 30,000 vinyl records, collected and preserved for over a decade, houses a weekly artist mixer every Thursday.
The Symphony Music Record Shop located on 791b Crown Street in Brooklyn, opened its doors in November of 1999. The founder, Jamaican-born Bruce Thompson, came to the United States as a teenager to make a life for himself like so many other young men and women from the Caribbean. From a young age, Thompson worked hard for what he wanted in life and had humble beginnings as a delivery boy for his mother who worked as a baker. After coming to the United States, Thompson pursued his love of music and eventually released a song with popular Jamaican reggae and dancehall artist, Johnny Osbourne, before opening his own record shop.
Thompson instilled the importance of hard work and a solid work ethic in his daughter Jewel Deshong and she is currently following in her father’s footsteps with a business of her own.
“Being the younger generation, we have to open the doors for other people. I have to make the change because it actually is my turn and I can’t let it go,” Deshong said.
During the holiday seasons and around Christmas time, Deshong’s mother Ruta Thompson, would decorate the shop with branches adorning unique shapes from the park and create her own Christmas trees. All year round, the shop is a place of creativity and wonder. “The Park used to have branches and wood stumps all over so I thought it would have been fun and different,” she said. It was important for her to keep the shop growing and changing with the times while staying true to their heritage.
Growing up in the shop and witnessing her parents work hard to own their own business, as well as exercising creativity through art and music was a critical part of Deshong’s life.
Naturally, it was her idea to bring weekly artist mixers to the shop each and every Thursday in order to keep her family’s business thriving and also to support other artists. After finding herself turned away and discouraged by other shop owners who never gave her the opportunity to display her handmade jewelry and trinkets, she utilized the record shop to create a platform for herself and other artists like her.
Vanna Sylvestre was born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn and found herself stepping foot into the Symphony Music Record Shop for the first time about five years ago during the summer.
She said she was in awe of their display of the heavy influence of Rastafarian culture.“Just looking at their view on reggae culture and different cultures through music. I got everything, like a history lesson,” Sylvestre said.
Sylvestre and Deshong have been best friends for over five years and both women said they recognize the value of preservation of culture and supporting familyowned businesses especially now in Brooklyn where things are changing and being more and more commercialized.
Deshong has taken on the artistic name, Vintage Jewel, which is a representation of her ability to connect the young with the old through her family business. And Sylvestre has taken on the task of helping out her longtime friend by promoting the shop whenever she can.
“This is not going to be here forever. I need this to be here forever,” said Sylvestre.