“Every drum here has a story.” That’s how professional percussionist Chris Bowman, owner of CHBO Drums in New Paltz, describes his shop. A recording industry professional with over 25 years in the business of acoustic engineering, and an active player with an international performing and recording resume, Chris still does the occasional acoustic consult in the New York metro area.
But now, the silver-haired percussionist occupies his days with percussion manufacturing and drumming, a hobby he picked up as a kid and decided to revisit almost 35 years later.
Chris first opened CHBO Drums on Water Street four years ago. The name is based on his own—Chris Bowman—and is a nod to his acoustical design/build firm, CHBO Inc.
Tucked away in a rustic warehouse behind the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and New Paltz’s bustling Water Street Market, CHBO Drums is a “nutty drum shop” filled with vintage, American-made drums and percussion paraphernalia hand-picked by the percussionist himself.
It’s a project Chris does out of passion above all else, he says. He calls the shop his “surfboard shop,” something he’s chosen to pursue after a long and fruitful career.
Behind the slate-gray warehouse door of CHBO Drums is a veritable treasure trove of drumming supplies, augmented by Chris’ unmatched expertise.
Inside his homey warehouse space, Chris wears many hats. With decades of instrument repair and professional percussion instrumentation under his belt (and the credentials to prove that he knows his stuff), Chris can both repair old and battered drum sets and create new drum kits entirely from scratch. He scours percussion supply factories and drum conventions, hunting with a keen and careful eye for “the best of the best.”
As if his percussion prowess wasn’t enough, Chris and local musician Alan Silverman also offer drum lessons to seasoned percussionists and drumming beginners, respectively.
Chris and his shop specialize in American-made drums from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s—some of the most highly sought-after percussion instruments in the world, he says—but he’s got everything from Indian tablas to Pakistani drums under CHBO Drums’ roof. Clients at CHBO Drums vary greatly; the shop attracts everyone, from retired drum hobbyists to vintage drum collectors, Chris says.
“Everyone who comes in is here for the same purpose,” he explains. “It’s brilliant!” CHBO Drums also has an “international website presence,” something Chris works hard to cultivate using Facebook, Instagram and the shop’s webpage. He’s contacted by clients across the globe, who tap into his extensive knowledge of drumming and percussion instruments for guidance.
Despite his worldwide reach, Chris always encourages potential buyers to stop by the shop and try out the instruments for themselves. It all depends on the individual, he explains.
“[Online] sound files are part of my business,” Chris says, “but if you come here, you can play the instruments in person, hold them, hear them. Everybody that hits something is going to sound different.”
Behind the slate-gray warehouse door of CHBO Drums is a veritable treasure trove of drumming supplies, augmented by Chris’ unmatched expertise. It’s made all the more special by Chris’ humble intentions.
“This is the opposite of a big box store,” he explains. “For me, it’s not about making a million dollars. It’s about having a good time and getting people instruments they can play.”
11 Water Street, New Paltz
Store Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 11am–6pm