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Drum Mecca Drummers World Prepares to Close Up Shop

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Photo: Jonathan Clark/WCBS 880

Photo: Jonathan Clark/WCBS 880

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For years, Drummers World on West 46th Street was a destination for percussionists of all stripes. Jazz drummers, roadies for famous bands, people involved with Broadway productions, even members of symphony orchestras traveled to the shop to find equipment.

Wednesday, however, was the last day of business for Drummers World.

On Tuesday morning the store’s founder and owner, Barry Greenspon, sat at his desk talking about its history. Photographs of patrons like Elvin Jones and Paul Motian hung from the walls, as well as a picture of Greenspon himself, taken more than 40 years ago, showing him sitting at a drum set, swinging a pair of sticks.

1010 WINS Reporter Al Jones at Drummer’s World…

“I have a lot of good memories,” Greenspon said. “It was more than a business; it was a blessing.”

Greenspon said he opened the drum store because he knew of no shop in Manhattan at the time that stocked lesser-known instruments along with standard drum kits. Greenspon filled the store with gongs, djembes, vibraphones, marimbas and pandieros, among other uncommon instruments.

Drummers would show up to buy an item, and sometimes end up enamored with the sound of an instrument they had never heard before.

There is no single reason that the store is closing, but plenty of contributing factors. The conglomeratization of the instrument business, in which chain retailers with deep pockets have elbowed out smaller competitors, and the reality that many people prefer to buy their equipment from online merchants.

“It’s kind of a message that a store like this is closing,” Mr. Greenspon said. “It eliminates the possibility of seeing an exotic instrument you’ve never seen before and becoming enthralled by it.”

On top of everything else, Greenspon said, the faltering economy made it difficult for him to pay his $14,000 a month rent, and forced his customers to economize.

At one time, people helping to run Broadway musicals like “The Lion King” and “Mamma Mia” would walk from theaters to buy triangles, timpani and other items. But he said newer productions were taking a different tack.

“Now they rent their instruments,” he said. “They don’t know how long the play will last.”

As noon approached on Tuesday, a few customers browsed in the partly emptied shop. Among them was Takashi Inoue, 25, a jazz drummer from Harlem. He said that he had not visited the store often but knew its reputation among musicians.

“This is the last store for professional drummers,” he said. “The others are for kids or hobbyists.”

Have a memory from Drummer’s World that you would like to share? Let us know in our comments section…

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