Picking Up the Vibes at MeMe Antenna
218 Bedford Avenue
By Anne Szustek
Photograph by Abigail Simon
Marihito “Mari” Ayabe, the proprietor of vintage goods shop MeMe Antenna, located in the MiniMall at North 5th and Bedford, is in his groove.
A producer of what he calls “dark down tempo dubby music” in a Williamsburg studio since 2003, the Japanese arriviste says he has changed his beat on account of developments during the past decade in both the neighborhood and his industry.
“As we all know, the music industry was hurt by the iTune revolution, since you were able to copy CD with your computer,” says Mari. Starting in 2007, he began some soul searching and about a year later, his studio started to import exclusive Japanese recording equipment such as headphones and synthesizers. At first, it was a wholesale business serving local retailers, but soon demand grew from out of state. Then it all came together for Mari: he realized “I should open my own store.”
Given the rapid real estate development around Williamsburg, and especially the condo complexes along Kent Avenue, as well as loft renovations everywhere, Mari surmised that tens of thousands of people will move into this area.
In June 2009, he and his colleagues saw a “For Rent” sign hanging in a Mini Mall storefront window. Two weeks later, they signed the lease for what would become MeMe Antenna, opened this past October.
Nine months later, the space is choc-a-bloc with stationery, vintage jewelry, and home furnishings, as well as their standby CDs, records, and music equipment. The store’s clientele is largely Williamsburg residents and musicians, although it draws in “many tourists from all over the world,” says Mari.
MeMe Antenna gets fresh inventory every week, thanks to Mari’s weekend hunts for vintage baubles, lamps, and furniture. Mari points out the store’s Japanese music releases, as well as releases from his own local production studio. “We want to focus on releasing more vinyl in 2010,” he says. Of Mari’s many pride and joys is a Japanese synthesizer dating from the 1970s-80s, Yamaha 1980s drum machines, Marantz brand radio receivers, and vintage vinyl running the gamut of Madonna, Bad Brains, classical, and jazz.
Items at MeMe Antenna are priced as low as $1, and there are plenty of budget-conscious gift ideas in the store. Letter-pressed greeting cards are $4; handmade jewelry pieces, $25; locally designed t-shirts for $36; and handmade purses from local labels at $75. Home décor junkies can get their fix with colorful vintage vases or candle holders, retailing at $10 for a set of three. Music fans can wear their heart on their sleeve with the store’s selection of music t-shirts. And if that isn’t your vibe, there are chocolate bars for $4.75.
MeMe Antenna is receptive.