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Richmond shop owner celebrates outcome of 25-year-old gamble

Renovations on the Metro Sound & Music Co. storefront at 117-119 W. Broad St. and upper-story apartments are nearly complete. (J. Elias O’Neal)

RICHMOND, Va. — A longtime downtown shop owner is marking his store’s 25th anniversary with a $3.5 million blow-out.

Mark Szafranski, owner and operator of Metro Sound & Music Co. at 117-119 W. Broad St., is preparing to reopen his renovated 2,900-square-foot storefront and a swath of 28 newly constructed apartments on the three floors above, after gutting much of the building over the last year.

The project, which totals around $3.5 million, has been more than 25 years in the making, beginning with Szafranski’s gamble to purchase the properties in 1993. He paid a combined $120,000 for the buildings at the time, according to city records.

“Downtown was a much different place back then,” he said. “Not too many people wanted to be down here … but the property was cheap, and you could tell, eventually, it was going to come back.”

Szafranski in the now-renovated upstairs unit that he occupied after buying the property in 1993. (J. Elias O’Neal)

Szafranski, a VCU alum, opened Metro Sound in 1991 next to the Virginia Repertory Theatre, in retail space across the street from its current location. The shop specializes in selling vintage musical instruments and equipment. It also serves as a repair shop, and houses a recording studio and band rehearsal space.

He opted to move his business two years later, when the opportunity arose to purchase a set of four-story buildings next door.

“I could buy a house out near Willow Lawn or nearly 40,000 square feet of buildings falling apart in downtown Richmond,” Szafranski said. “I decided on the buildings … People, my father in particular, thought I had lost my mind.”

Szafranski said the plan was to grow his business downtown, and when the timing was right, convert the upper-level commercial space into apartments.

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