Back in 2013, CHBO Drums opened its doors to New Paltz for the first time and has since maintained a presence as one of the only purely drum-oriented music stores in the area. 10 years later, the business has made its move closer into town, bringing nothing but benefits for the town and the shop.
Originally based out of a warehouse right by the downtown Water Street Market, owner Chris Bowman has just recently relocated the business to 1 S. Oakwood Terrace, bringing the shop closer to the campus and making it easily accessible to those walking along Main Street.
Talking about some of the pros of the old location, Bowman said, “The old space was more isolated, and I liked that. It was nice because people that wanted to find me would find me.”
But with a brand-new sign hanging proudly outside the new location, the store is ready for an influx of fresh customers. Being right next to the Gulf gas station, the store places itself on the path to school for many students, giving the drum shop far more exposure than its original, tucked-away location. “A lot of people have already stopped in that didn’t even know I was down the street, and that’s really wonderful,” Bowman comments.
“One thing I wanted to point out was that the town, the village, whatever you call it, everybody has been so kind to me,” Bowman said. “So many people have helped me from the real estate guy to the building department, to this, that and the other and made it such an easy transition for me … This has been so easy, so nice. Whoever reads this, I’m so appreciative of everybody for making it like that.”
Being a long-time drummer and percussionist, Bowman takes great pride in his drum shop; it is the antithesis of many big-box music stores with its homeliness and unique selection as well as its art. Being a small, locally based business, CHBO Drums has an inventory that sets itself apart from other music shops. True to his shop’s namesake, Bowman only sells the products he endorses; “A lot of times, I’m not gonna put it in the store and sell it if I don’t dig it. To me, this is not about making a million dollars. This is to have fun, and to share some stuff with people.”
Besides his credentials as a business owner, studio designer and musician, painting and drawing have become a recent pastime for Bowman in the last couple years. He decorates the shop with avant-garde, abstract art that evokes feelings of psychedelia. The space serves as a gallery for many of his art pieces, as the drop-tile ceiling above the front counter is replaced with many colorfully painted canvases, and other sculptures of Bowman’s are peppered throughout.
Beyond just selling music gear and performing, Bowman also has been building drums for quite some time, made evident by the unfinished drum hoops and projects that decorate the warehouse. For drummers that are based locally, this shop is a wonderful resource as the only other music store in town, Imperial Guitar, only has equipment for stringed instruments. It’s very rare to find a music store solely focused on percussion, so this shop’s presence only makes New Paltz even more special to local musicians.
“To me, it’s like giving back, and if there’s upcoming musicians that are in the hood and I can be here to give back in any way that I can, because I just look back on when I was younger and how people helped me through,” Bowman reflects.
He also talks about how important the shop is to the history of drums, as he stores a large amount of vintage kits and equipment. He says that being able to share stories and conversation with customers is how that history is kept alive.
“To have a young person come in and listen to some of my crazy stories and their eyes just get wide open, then I’ve touched them, hopefully — to me, that’s what this is about.”
Already placed in a town full of music and art, CHBO Drums has been bound for success since its inception, and its new location is sure to bring even more business than before. Students, tourists and locals alike all can stop by the shop to just take in the one-of-a-kind ambiance or to stock up on gear like drumsticks, heads, cymbals or whatever else they may need, affectionately referred to as the shop’s “milk and eggs” by Bowman. Boasting a selection outside of traditional drum equipment, there are tongue drums, kalimbas and other folk percussion instruments available at the shop. Some hard-to-find stuff like steel drums and didgeridoos are even in stock!
For those who may not be percussionists or musicians, it can still be an interesting place to stop by and immerse themselves in the world of drums. On top of this, Bowman also stressed that the shop offers drum instruction on the days the store is closed. While CHBO Drums is open for business from Wednesday to Saturday 11 to 5 p.m., anyone interested in lessons can book for any time between Sunday and Tuesday, whether they are just starting their drumming career or already an advanced player.
Bowman is elated about the new location and the support he has received from the town. Bolstered by local love, Bowman reflects on the beginnings of the move, “When the word got out that they were going to sell that building, I heard through the grapevine that a lot of people didn’t want me to leave town, and that made me feel good.” There’s no doubt that having CHBO Drums in town makes New Paltz just a bit more special, because who else can say that their town has one of the only drum shops in the country?