Sunday Afternoon at the Red Hook Record Store
Bene Coopersmith’s record shop has neither sign nor online presence, yet DJs and music freaks travel far to flip through his stacks.
If you ever find yourself, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, riding the B-61 bus into Red Hook, Brooklyn, be advised that you will probably end up staying longer than intended. You might get off on Wolcott Street and wander past the weed-choked lots and warehouses – soaking up the oddly eddied, out-of-time feel of the neighborhood. You might walk out to the docks, or past a chain-link fence and sun-battered schoolyard, where local kids play basketball.
You will definitely hear music drifting from 360 Van Brunt Street, the quirky record shop that does not have a name. On any given day this music could be blues, gospel, or reggae; Ethiopian jazz or psychedelic rock. If you are the kind of person whose footsteps sway towards rhythm, you will end up going in.
The store is owned by Bene Coopersmith, a Red Hook legend in his own right. He is a collector, carpenter, musician, occasional actor, and a regular at Sunny’s, where he can sometimes be heard bopping on bass guitar with the band Nymph.
The central character of Dustin Guy Defa’s new film is inspired by Coopersmith’s larger-than-life, magical persona
In person, Coopersmith is homey and oddly charming, with a vaguely Noo Yawk way of speaking. His knowledge of music is uncanny and extensive, and hours passed at his shop are filled with endless conversations about rare recordings, new discoveries and old favorites.
“You will never hear all the beautiful music,” Coopersmith explained to me the last time I visited his shop. “It’s like, when you’re an addict, you’re never bored. There is always more to find.”
Coopersmith opened the store in July 2015 to house the overflow of his personal vinyl collection. Crates of records were stacked so high in his apartment, it was hard to keep the dust off them. When a stack eventually fell over, he said, “enough!” and expanded into the storefront at Van Brunt Street.
The space had previously housed a traveling Spanish-language library called Libreria Donceles; and before that, a popular French restaurant, a saxophone repair shop, and a studio for spinning classes (the full-wall mirror is still intact). It was also briefly the headquarters for Occupy Wall Street’s Red Hook volunteer base.