The New Beat On Water Street

Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.

At first glance, the site may seem like a simple warehouse, but after venturing inside, it’s clear that its contents are overflowing with vintage instruments.

CHBO Drums, named after its owner, Chris Bowman, is located a few paces down from New Paltz’s Water Street Market in a giant warehouse-structured building. A high ceiling, strategically-placed windows and a wide-open floor space set the scene for Bowman’s workspace.

“I get characters in here and it’s really fun,” Bowman said. “I’ve been meeting people that I haven’t seen in 30 years.”

The shop, which manufactures, refurbishes, designs and rents percussion instruments to customers, is a product of Bowman’s desire to stray from his life as a recording studio designer. He considers CHBO Drums the “surfboard shop” he is able to own at this point in his life.

A North Carolina native and graduate of Appalachian State University with a degree in music technology and percussion, Bowman moved to New York in 1981 where he began professionally designing instruments.  After working in New York City for nearly 30 years and designing over 250 recording studios for clients such as Alicia Keys and Howard Shore, Bowman said he was ready to get back into building drums.

Co-owner of Jack and Luna’s Café in Stone Ridge, where he and his wife, Julie Bowman host jazz nights and similar events, Bowman started working on opening CHBO Drums last spring and has successfully occupied the space for the past two months.

The shop has a self-proclaimed old-school feel, Bowman said, and it does exactly what the big-box stores don’t do.

“There aren’t more than 10 real drum shops all over the country where you can go in and talk and there are older cats that have been on the road and have been through this stuff and have some crazy stories,” Bowman said.

Bowman’s circle of customers reaches several countries and is comprised of old friends, people who he has connected with through the shop’s social network and even New Paltz students.

“I first encountered Chris Bowman a few years back when I was studying jazz drums at New Paltz,” Alan Silverman, a New Paltz graduate said. “Some friends and I drove out to Jack and Luna’s Café, and as we walked in, our eyes turned to the drum throne where a man who looked like a wizard was consistently cranking out polyrhythms over a vamp for minutes. My jaw was on the ground and I wondered ‘who is this guy?’”

Silverman found Bowman’s drum shop through a Facebook page a few years after graduating from New Paltz and knew he had to drop by. Silverman said the atmosphere was genuine, friendly and hospitable, and that since moving back to the Hudson Valley, he spends quite a bit of time at CHBO Drums.

Assistant Professor of Music, Mark Dziuba, played with Bowman at Jack and Luna’s Café as a trio with bassist Charley Knicely, and said he has witnessed every step of CHBO Drums’ creation.

“Every step has been exciting,” Dziuba said. “I truly admire Chris’ vision and resourcefulness. His touch is everywhere. There’s no drum shop on the planet quite like it.”

Although Bowman has been frequently asked if he intends to convert CHBO Drums into a concert venue, he said he is still getting used to the space and is trying to maintain a low profile.

He continues to play gigs several times a month and enjoys the company of those who drop by his shop.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Bowman said. “Of all the crazy things I’ve done, I’ve never done anything quite like this.”