Since Rawlston Charles opened Charlie’s Calypso City, on Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in July 1972, the store has been a hub for Brooklyn’s Caribbean community, reinventing itself for each era.
Mr. Charles, a native of Tobago, started the store largely because he couldn’t find the calypso records that had been a vital part of his youth. Soon the store became a go-to source for sounds straight out of Port of Spain, Trinidad. In the 1980s, when Mr. Charles opened a recording studio and a record company upstairs, it was a magnet not just for calypso performers, but also for rappers like Whodini and the Fat Boys.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, as the borough’s island population grew, the record store expanded and became an essential part of the annual West Indian American Day Parade in Crown Heights, holding a party to start the Labor Day weekend.