For Seven Decades This Black Family Record Store Has Been Powering Through!

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In 1968 riots erupted following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 500 fires were lit in the Hill District, North Side and Homewood areas in Pittsburgh. Dorsey’s Record Shop was standing then, it made it through unscathed and today it still stands, it s still run by the same family, the 70 year old son of the founder and his 38 year old son. The shop has been in business for some 70.

Surviving five economic downturns, riots and changing times has got to have been tough but the business is a model of what can be achieved if people put their mind to it, if family and like-minded people work together.

Post Gazette wrote a piece on the shop and here is an excerpt from their piece:

From its very beginning, Dorsey’s has always been more than a record store. And today, record sales actually account for the smallest portion of its total revenue.

The lion’s share of traffic coming into the 750-square-foot office front on Frankstown Road these days are people who want to have their family photo albums, wedding photos, family reunion pictures and images of deceased loved ones packaged on a custom-made DVD that is set to music and dolled up with graphics.

The digital imaging business, which took off about 15 years ago, generates about 60 percent of Dorsey’s total revenue. Computer repair, which started in the 1990s, accounts for about 25 percent of its business. The sale of gospel, jazz, R&B and hip hop records brings in about 15 percent.

“Most of our digital imaging involves funerals,” said Neil Dorsey. He said the family of a deceased person will bring stacks of photographs to the shop and Marcus Dorsey will transfer the photos to a DVD that seeks to tell the story of the loved one’s life.

“We have quite a few funeral homes that market that product for us,” the elder Mr. Dorsey said. “They contract us to do the videos. That’s the largest segment of our digital imaging business.”

The service is also used for weddings, parties and reunions. At the latter, he said, “They will give out last year’s photos as a gift CD while they are taking new photos of the current reunion.”

Black-owned business — such as restaurants, barber shops, beauty shops, jewelry stores, dry cleaners and newstands — have thrived in Pittsburgh since the 18th century, though only a handful have stayed in business as long as Dorsey’s Record Shop.

Other examples of black businesses that have survived 50 years or more include Strong’s Cleaners & Laundry, also in Homewood which was founded in 1930; as well as three African American-owned funeral homes Spriggs-Watson Funeral Home of Homewood, which opened in 1966; West Funeral Home of the Hill District, which has been in business 85 years; and Coston Funeral Homes Inc., located in East Liberty and the North Side, which has been open for 53 years.

We have to share these amazing places! It’s always good to have a positive story to share. You can find their website here dorseyrecords.com, I am sure they’d love for you to come say hi if you are around!

Read more in the Post Gazette here.

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PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.

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