Last summer, Martin Brewer’s landlord gave him one week’s notice to move his iconic record shop out of the storefront he’d occupied for almost five years.
After months of searching for its new home, Halsey and Lewis has found its groove once again in Bed-Stuy, this time on Madison Street and Marcus Garvey Boulevard.
It’s clear why Halsey and Lewis, named for the intersection it once occupied, has thrived all these years — Brewer’s shop, which he runs with co-owner Sonya Farrell, is inviting, laidback and full of eclectic art books, records and candles.
The shop also serves typical coffee house drinks, which, combined with the palo santo or dried sage that is usually burning, gives the store its signature aroma.
The records span genres and include rare presses and first editions. Some of the records are from Brewer’s own funky collection, which has house music and jazz influences. He writes the highlights of the more unique records on sticky notes, which makes browsing the stacks an educational experience.
“I love to surround myself with things I love and I hope that other people like them too,” Brewer said.
The store also carries a curated selection of vintage clothing, including eccentric jackets, well-worn denim and graphic t-shirts. “I try to appeal to all the different senses,” Brewer says.
Brewer opened the store in February 2017 on Halsey Street and Lewis Avenue, after previously owning a similar shop in Park Slope. Brewer has lived in Brooklyn since 1995 and currently lives in Prospect Heights.
Halsey & Lewis helped distribute PPE during the pandemic, and it also started an initiative to take under-served teens down to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
“I initially started out as just buying records for myself and buying things at flea markets and stoop sales because I liked them,” Brewer said.
“I ended up flipping those items as I would grow out of them, and the business organically grew and turned into a way to connect with my community.”
When Brewer unexpectedly had to move, Councilmember Chi Ossé, local celebrity New York Nico and organizer Candice Fortin raised over $35,000 from neighbors, vinyl lovers and community members to help him relocate — a testament to how many people support the shop.
So far, customers love the new space, Brewer said. Ossé dedicated a four-Tweet thread to how much he liked the new location.
“Business has been a little slow because it’s been cold and I don’t know if people really know I’m here yet, but there are some fans of the old spot that have been trickling in,” Brewer said.
“I suspect that when the weather is really nice it’s going to go really well.”
One of the main reasons Brewer picked his new location was the proximity to the park, where he wants to play on the shaded basketball court with his buddies.
In the warmer months, Brewer hopes to throw a series of free events, including live jazz and DJ sets, as well as outdoor movie nights and basketball tournaments.
The first live jazz event will likely be outside the shop on April 24, the day after Record Store Day, to celebrate the new location.
“I loved the old space, I was there for five years and enjoyed all of it, but this new space seems more open, less congested and I like being across the street from the park,” Brewer said.
“The idea is to host some live music, some DJ sets and try to send energy into the park and bring my neighbors together.”
One of the movies Brewer wants to show is a documentary about the park itself, called Soul in the Hole.
Halsey & Lewis is open 12:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday through Sunday, though Brewer said he’ll soon be open 7:00am to 7:00pm, seven days a week.