MARTIN BREWER & SONYA FARRELL
Owners, Black Star Vinyl
Jun 16, 2022
When Halsey & Lewis was forced to shutter in July of 2021, the loss of the eclectic Black-owned record shop and community hub came as a blow to its Bed-Stuy neighbors. Fortunately, owners Martin Brewer and Sonya Farrell have gotten used to pivoting. (Brewer ran his previous shop, Tangerine, in a pre-gentrified Park Slope from 1997 to 2002 until the rent got too damn high.)
In February, Brewer and Farrell reopened Halsey & Lewis in Bed-Stuy, this time on Madison Street and Marcus Garvey Boulevard. In April, they renamed it Black Star Vinyl (the name Halsey & Lewis had been a reference to the intersection of the store’s previous location). There you will find Brewer on any given day, just as likely to suggest a Nina Simone record as he is a book of photographs, vintage decor or junkyard art.
The new store is spacious and across the street from the Israel Putnam Playground. That’s by design. Farrell is also a real estate agent and found a location where Black Star can begin to host the community again. The new shop with a new name is the right size to throw concerts, movie nights and DJ sets, all of which Black Star Vinyl has in the works.
When the city ordered businesses to pause regular services because of Covid in the spring of 2020, Brewer and Farrell pivoted to delivery and curbside pickup. Farrell also created #ShareTheHealth, a program to provide resources to Brooklyn homeless shelters. Friends and fans of their store pooled resources to provide money, masks and other sanitary items to the most vulnerable Brooklynites at the height of the pandemic.
Farrell also runs Let’s Get on the Bus, an organization that provides enriching field trips for underserved youth to promote civic engagement and social justice. Their most frequent destination is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.