When the late, great Sam D’Amico closed up shop in 2007, Philadelphia was without a dedicated drum retailer for the first time in nearly thirty-five years. That gong sized void was finally filled in November 2016 when Brandon Pfundt opened Philadelphia Drum & Percussion in the city’s Fishtown section.
Though Pfundt arrived a good decade after gentrification began to transform the once predominantly blue-collar neighborhood into a haven for artists and young professionals, the thirty-one year-old former sales rep for Bosphorus has carved out a niche for himself in an area that lacks no shortage of venues, recording studios, rehearsal spaces, or working drummers who live within walking distance of the shop. Touring drummers and local players alike regularly swing by to pick up the essentials (heads, sticks), artisanal-leaning dampening accessories (Snareweight, Roots EQ), and sometimes even the high-end kits and snares Pfundt carries from boutique companies like Q, Noble and Cooley, and A&F. Modern Drummer visited the shop recently to get Pfundt’s story.
I’d been really into music and playing in bands and was interested in the recording side. My idiot brain thought that it would be a good idea to go to recording engineering school and learn that trade. So after high school, I went to Full Sail University for a year, and then the music industry pretty much tanked. The technology got better for recording at home, and the need for engineers at big studios went down. I worked at Morning View in Malibu; I worked for Sylvia Massy at her studio in California; I went to Nashville. I tried that, internship after internship, not getting hired. I worked part-time for Bosphorus as their East Coast sales rep. That got me in the door at the NAMM show, and in this world of drum retail. I was also working at a machine shop that my family owned. Having to go to drum shops for Bosphorus, I always skipped Philly because there wasn’t a shop there. I’d go to Drum Center of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to visit owner Shane Kinney, Chuck Levin’s in Washington…but there was a giant gap. That got me percolating: There’s no drum shop in Philly? That’s a major market there that can be tapped into.
I wanted to be the guy who had the things you couldn’t find at the big-box stores—which is a risk, because I’m stocking the higher-end gear. But I know there’s a market for it. People seem to appreciate being able to come in here and be like, I know about these, but I never get to see them. People are aware of Q drums, aware of C&C, but they were never able to go somewhere and actually play them. There’s this whole world of boutique instruments—Noble and Cooley and Brady Drums—and I wanted to highlight that.
I’ve sold a decent amount of kits at the $2,000 price range. It’s hard for us to sell a kit in here whose price starts with a 3. Maybe if I was in San Francisco, that would happen more. But Philadelphia is a blue-collar town; people work hard for their money. Drumkits are the slowest mover. It’s everything else that keeps the machine going. My highest-ticket thing that moves at a good pace is probably cymbals. People seem to have no problem dropping money on cymbals. But when it comes to drums, they’re a little more hesitant.
My biggest surprise has been people’s lack of knowledge of the brands that I carry. I guess I lived in a little bit of a bubble going to NAMM and being aware of all this stuff. I was such a nerd about it. I was always watching Memphis Drum Shop’s videos and looking at Dunnett snares and stuff like that. Not a lot of people are aware of that stuff. That was an eye-opener. So I’ve definitely had to tailor the stock a bit more to what people are buying, while staying true to my original vision. Like Noble and Cooley—the name carries a little bit of weight. There’s a trust there. Most people do know about C&C at this point. But everyday people are still coming in asking, “What’s Q Drums?”
Drums have been such a big part of my life. I want everyone to have that experience I had when I was thirteen—get a new kit or a new snare, and how awesome that feels when it’s the right sound. It never wears off . The finishes, all the things—it’s very personal, and it’s fun. That’s where the core of this is. Obviously we’ve all got to make a living, and I hope that I can.
“Shane Kinney at Portsmouth Drum Center was a big inspiration,” Pfundt says of his decision to open a shop. “And José Medeles at Revival, he’s stocking great brands and has a ton of knowledge. I know of all these places doing it the right way, and I just want to do it that way here. There’s a nice little community of owners trying to do it at spots like this.”