Once upon a time, there was a large drum store in North Hollywood filled with stacks of drums, cymbals, awesome snares, and plenty of practice rooms for teaching. Then the complete and utter financial collapse of 2008 came along, and a lot of drummers had to seriously tighten their belts. Sadly as a result, the large drum store closed permanently… at least according to Google.
But in reality, Chad Sexton’s Drum City re-opened in 2010, not far from its original location. It was scaled down considerably, but sometimes this is a really good thing, because it became an even more personal environment, and that’s why I’m writing about it today.
As some of you know, I work as a flight instructor in Los Angeles, and the fog was far too thick today to get anything done… so, I decided it was going to be David’s drum day. I hit the Guitar Center in Pasadena, and then wanted to follow-up on something I’d read recently in Modern Drummer. There was a short article about Chad Sexton, and what caught my eye was the odd reference to Chad often spending time at Drum City…
I knew it had closed at the original location, and I had been past the empty building several times since. No information was available about a new address, so, when I read that mention, I Googled the name, and did indeed find a new address, a Facebook page, the whole deal.
Cool. Time for a road trip.
I headed over, walked inside, bought some Regal Tip nylon 7A’s to keep my finesse in shape, and started talking to Mac Sexton, the store’s owner and manager. Yes, he is Chad’s brother. Mac has run everything from a Godiva chocolate store to a Barnes and Noble, so he knows his way around a shop. He and Chad grew up around drums, since their mom worked at Joe Voda’s Drum City, in Nebraska. Mac and Chad studied with Joe, and Mac even remembered hearing his mom doing business by phone with Mrs. Vic Firth… which pretty much speaks to the depth of human contact Mac and Chad were imprinted with, and which drives their business model today.
(The Drum City crew: Mac, Chad, and Linda)
What does any of this have to do with Google? Well, Mac told me that after they moved, Google had not updated the new address. People didn’t know where the store was, and after a few requests, Mac started getting a little stressed from it. He sent Google an e-mail once again asking them to change the address… and with that stress followed the very simple comment, “Are you guys trying to put me out of business?”
Boom. Goodbye Google e-mail address.
And when Mac searched again for Chad Sexton’s Drum City, he saw the message, “This business permanently closed.”
So, one day not long after, when the Google photo-mapping car just happened to be cruising through the neighborhood, Mac saw it, went outside, and flipped it the bird, with both hands. He then sent Google another e-mail, saying, “Hey guys, if you’re wondering who flipped you off, it was ME!”
As Mac was telling me this story, I mentioned that I write a little blog about drumming and wanted to let people know that the store WAS still open. After he told me the Google tale, I asked him directly, “Are you’re sure you don’t mind me mentioning this?”
“Nah, go ahead.”
Which is great, because it would be a sin not to share it.
But it would be an even bigger sin if I didn’t tell readers how much I enjoyed visiting this scaled-down version of the previous store. Why? Because the minute I set foot in the door, I was transported back to my teen years, where I formed my love of drumming at The Percussion Center, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Chad Sexton’s Drum City felt exactly like the small shop where Dick Kenny offered drum sales, drum repair, and lessons. Guys would come in, hang out, and form a community. THIS is what is missing in the big chains, and THIS is what every drummer needs to feel in their lives if they really want to know where the heart and soul of rhythm comes from.
Mac told me that they obviously can’t compete with the big chains, don’t want to sell cymbals over the Internet, and unfortunately don’t have the room to hold clinics. But let me tell you what this place DOES have to offer: old school, real deal, one-on-one contact that formed the foundation of everything that I am as a drummer today.
As we talked, Mac, showed me his Regal Tip Combo stick, and I fell in love with it. I swapped it out for the 7A’s and we just stood there, trading stories about out mutual love of Ludwig, while we played rolls on a practice pad on the counter.
Yes! Yes Yes Yes! THIS is what makes drumming cool! It’s the sense of community and the connection to history. And this is what made my day and reminded me what I needed to get a lot more of.
(Daniel Glass, from Royal Crown Review, and Chad)
Several customers came and went during my visit, and Mac gave each one of them the sincere time of day. This was in stark contrast to my visit to a large store the day before in Los Angeles. The guy behind the counter didn’t engage me in any way beyond, “Will that do it?”
No, no actually, that won’t do it. In fact, it does nothing. And I don’t want to feel like that when I go into a drum store. Ever.
So, if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area and want a dose of humanness with your drumming, you know where to go:
10424 Burbank Boulevard North Hollywood, CA 91601
It’s ironic that I did find Chad Sexton’s Drum City on Google (I guess they got the two-handed message!), but I don’t suppose Mac has had much reason to go back and check it lately. He’s just a guy running a business that, like most small businesses today, are still feeling the hit (okay, more like a nuclear blast) from 2008.
And so, I would like to ask you readers a small favor: if you can’t stop by the shop in person, drop them a line at email@example.com and say hello. Let them know you support small drum shops, visit their Facebook page (chadsextonsdrumcity), or swing by the website (www.chadsextonsdrumcity.com)
Those of you who are regular viewers of this blog know that it is commercial-free, no ads, no e-mail collecting, etc. I just write what I believe in, and human contact is at the top of the list, particularly in a soulless city like Los Angeles. I also like stories with happy endings, and it’s ones like this that help me forget the stress of my insane day job and make me want to get back behind a drum set for a living like I dreamed of doing when was a kid, once upon a time…