East Harlem Music Store hits the Latin beat

You won’t find many who know more about Latin music than Vicente Barreiro, co-owner of Casa Latina Music Shop on 116th Street in East Harlem. He’s been there for over half a century, and it all started when he met Christina at a dance club in Manhattan.

What would you like to know

  • Casa Latina Music Shop opened in 1966 on 116th Street in East Harlem
  • Owners Vicente and Christina Barreiro took over the business after the death of founder Alfonso Rubio, Christina’s father.
  • The shop sells records, cassettes, CDs and musical instruments, specializing in Latin music, such as salsa
  • Casa Latino has attracted some of the biggest names in Latin music over the years, including Tito Puente, Joe Cuba, and Machito

“We used to go dancing, we got married and his dad had the store, not this one, he had another one two doors down, and he asked me if I wanted to work there,” said Barreiro said.

His answer was yes, to Christina’s father, Alfonso Rubio. Rubio bought the current store in 1966, and when he died in 1978 Vicente and Christina began running the business.

Barreiro has added musical instruments to the records, cassettes, and CDs sold here over the years, specializing in Latin sounds like salsa.

The store has become a popular place for Latin Sound greats to stop and talk about music with Barreiro. The pandemic has not been good for music stores like Casa Latina, as many shoppers who would stop have gotten used to ordering online.

Not to mention streaming services impacting what record companies decide to distribute, so the stock of popular items is shrinking.

“It’s a whole different environment right now. But we still have the alumni who always come,” said Christina Barreiro, co-owner of the store.

Along the way, the Barreiro’s raised four children and their store has remained a staple in a rapidly changing neighborhood. Looking back, Vicente Barreiro says he wouldn’t have done it any other way.

“I’m happy to have been here, and I’m still here, and I’ve had my best years here,” Barreiro said.

Alice P. Darby