New beat on Water Street

Inside CHBO Drums in downtown New Paltz.

Drummers aren’t always as appreciated by their audiences as are the performers playing up front; almost out of sight onstage, half-hidden behind the drum kit, the drummer rarely sings lead or takes the spotlight, so their contributions aren’t as obvious. The reality, of course, is that the drummer is actually holding the entire group together, and any guitar-player can tell you that without a great drummer he won’t sound as good. So it’s nice to know that there are places where drummers can get catered to and get their due, like the newly opened CHBO Drums in New Paltz.

The box stores may have all the basics, but this is pretty much an ultimate drum shop for discerning players. Take a trip to Water Street and walk downhill, all the way past the retail market there, and look for a warehouselike structure beside the Rail Trail and the Wallkill River. Inside, owner Chris Bowman is manufacturing drums there, like the beautiful set made of bird’s-eye maple with a gorgeous matte fine-furniture finish that some drummer is going to come in and fall in love with. Bowman’s making his own line of sticks and percussion instruments like “bell-blocks” (for the non-drummer reader, those are just what that sounds like); and with all the equipment there for fabricating, CHBO Drums offers all facets of drum and percussion repairs from replacing parts to total customization. A soundproof studio is in the building, too, to test everything out.

Then there’s the assortment of refurbished vintage drums that includes some Gretsch collectibles made in Brooklyn in the ‘60s and a drum that was on the Howdy Doody Show. Bowman has some new drums as well, and is carrying the Crescent line of cymbals and gongs, handmade in Turkey, that I’m assured sound as good as they look.

Clients visiting the light-filled warehouse reap the benefits of Bowman’s lifetime of experience as a professional drummer, instrument-builder and studio designer with over 200 recording studios to his credit, including facilities for Alicia Keyes and Howard Shore. Bowman built the jazz club at Jack & Luna’s Café in Stone Ridge, where his wife and co-owner Julie runs the restaurant side of things and he takes care of the entertainment, booking the acts and playing drums with the top jazz talent that appears regularly there (check out for details).

Bowman is enthused about the new venture in New Paltz, which is really an extension of something that he has spent his entire life doing, he says, having grown up in North Carolina where his father and uncle owned a furniture factory and he was always around things being made and people making music. CHBO Drums is open Thursdays through Mondays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by appointment. The website,, is set up for online sales.

CHBO Drums, 11 Water Street, New Paltz; (917) 217-3107,

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