Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Drum Den owner Pete Martinez, second from left, with Stuyvesant. Photo by James Damion

Photo and story by James Damion

Privately owned businesses remain the heart and soul of our communities. With the ever-growing boom of big box stores and franchises, it's of the utmost importance to both support and celebrates the independent fabric that inspires the phrases "Support independent business," "Buy local," and "Buy small." I reached out to long-time friend and owner of Hoboken's The Drum Den, Pete Martinez (Stuyvesant, The Coffin Daggers,) to get the lowdown on his ten years as New Jersey's one and only drum retailer.

Q: When and how did the idea for The Drum Den come about? Had you worked at a music store or given lessons before?

Pete: Well, you know, James, I love the drums. I studied music in college and took my drumming very seriously. Many of my music teachers and mentors had music related “gigs,” that didn’t solely involve playing. They composed, arranged, and recorded music. Some of them fixed instruments, rented, and bought and sold them. One day at school, we had a guest speaker that shared his story of how he made saxophone reeds and mouthpieces for his classmates in college, and grew this side business into a giant online retailer. I remember thinking that day that having a music store of my own could be my way of staying in the business and making a living, even if I didn’t make my entire income from playing the drums.

I always enjoyed maintaining my own drums, and friend’s drums, and I had taught lessons almost as long as I had been taking them, so opening a drum shop with these services seemed like a natural move for me. My grandparents owned a grocery store in Texas, so I already had retail in my blood! : ) Anyhow, I finished college, did some touring and recording, and on a vacation in Mexico with then girlfriend, now wife Verity, decided it was time to open The Drum Den.

Q: I’ve stopped in to say hello and even sit behind a kit. However, I know you’d give a better description of what you carry and the services you offer. Can you give us a rundown?

Pete: The Drum Den is NJ’s only drum shop! We have a small shop, but we buy, sell, rent, repair and teach the drums.

Q: What does the Drum Den offer that other big retailers might not?

Pete: Outstanding service, and professional drum studios. Whether you’re in for a repair, or to pick up some cymbal felts, we always go above and beyond to make sure you get exactly what you need and for the right price. And, if you’re at The Drum Den for a lesson or to practice, you’ll get to play in one of our professional drum studios with two drum sets and a PA system.

Q: How old were you when you first started playing the drums?

Pete: I was 15 when I started playing the drums. I tried a few other instruments before the drums with minimal success, but when I first tried the drums, I felt right at home.

Q: Do you remember your first kit?

Pete: I sure do. It was a royal blue colored TKO drum set that my folks bought for me from Pastore Music in Union City. It was used and came with a kick ass Zildjian crash that I broke before I knew any better. The kit was missing a seat and a ride cymbal, but I was soon gifted those by drummer, family friend, and acclaimed rock critic Jim DeRogatis.

Q: Who were the drummers that inspired you? Has that list changed over the years?

Pete: Elvin Jones, John Bonham, and Hal Blaine almost go without saying for us drummers, but there are so many others that inspire me. Ian Paice, Roy Haynes, Philly “Joe” Jones, Ringo Starr, Jim Gordon, Abe Laboriel, Jr, and Steve Jordan are all drummers that I would tap my foot to any time of day, but it’s probably my friends that are playing drums professionally that inspire me most nowadays. Ray Kubian, Juan “Carlito” Mendoza, Andrei Koribanics, Brian Kantor, Ramsey Norman, Orion Turre, and Noel Sagerman are all talented drummers that I’m glad to know.

Q: I first met you when you were playing with the band Stuyvesant. What other bands have you played with?

Pete: I had a blast playing with Stuyvesant, and thanks to you, James, there are a lot of great photos to prove it! Around the same time I was in Stuyvesant, I joined another band called The Coffin Daggers. I did lots of touring and recording with both of those bands, and was fortunate enough to be hired as a sideman in all sorts of different bands. I played the drums in theatrical productions, in marching bands, jazz bands, punk bands, Dixieland bands, funk bands, singer songwriter led bands, and more.

Q: Do you continue to want to make music?

Pete: Absolutely.

Q: Correct me if I’m wrong but, weren’t there plans to move to Jersey City Heights?

Pete: In 2015 I partnered up with Guitar Bar to open a new, joint location in the Jersey City Heights. Our Hoboken stores remained. My wife and I were living in the Heights at the time, and many of our friends were migrating there as well, so opening a store there felt like the right move. Although I greatly enjoyed the commute and the community, it was too hard to manage both stores, and I decided to leave the business. Guitar Bar took over my half of the business and still remains. It was a great experience and I miss working with the Guitar Bar crew, but it was the right decision for me.

Q: You’re celebrating ten years of the business. Were you always housed at Neumann Leather?

Pete: The Neumann Leather Building has been our home since we first opened in 2010. Having a drum shop in an old warehouse building proved to be a great home for us since we can make all the noise we want and have a lot of space.

Q: Having a business in a landmark building seems pretty awesome, but the building doesn’t offer a lot of visibility. Top that with the fact that Observer Highway doesn’t score a very high walkability rate. Does that effect the amount of traffic you get?

Pete: We get very little walk-ins, and although that was hard to deal with when we first opened, now that we have a strong reputation and online presence, we have a much easier time connecting with customers. And, with so much retail moving online these days, I consider myself very fortunate to have a business that does not require prime retail.

Q: The spread of Covid-19 has put caused a lot of businesses, both big and small, to close their doors. How has it effected the Drum Den? In particular, drum lessons.

Pete: The lessons at The Drum Den have always been our bread and butter. Before COVID-19, we were teaching about seventy students per week in our studios. Never a quiet moment in the shop. Although we’ve always bought, sold, repaired, and rented drums, there wasn’t as big of a focus on those areas because the lessons were so strong. Having to take our lessons online due to COVID-19 restrictions made us lose about half of our students practically overnight, so we had to find other ways to pay the bills. Fortunately, we were able to greatly increase our sales and repairs to make up for the loss in lessons and rentals. COVID-19 will certainly have a lasting impact on our shop, but with the renewed focus on online sales and newfound appreciation for online lessons, I believe 2021 will be our best year yet.

For more information on sales, lessons, or to make an appointment a visit to the store, visit

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