Indian Orchard, Massachusetts

Joe Barthelette is proof that you don’t need to be in or near a major city to have a successful vintage drum business. Enticed by a drool-inducing Instagram feed and website showcasing the various crown-jewel kits, snares, and orphans that pass through the shop, vintage enthusiasts regularly trek to Wood and Weather, located roughly two hours west of Boston.

The appointment-only shop, which Barthelette started in his basement about five years ago, is located on the fifth floor of an old warehouse. As fitting as the space is for a vintage operation (with some boutique pieces sprinkled in), Barthelette admits he’s been mulling a more traditional retail setup. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about every day,” he shares. “It’s not even that I need to. It’s just because right now I’m in a 1,400-square-foot warehouse space, and I’m very quickly running out of room. But if I had something on the ground, I’d need to conform to the classic drum shop model. Get some employees, get some sticks, heads, cymbals. I just don’t think that’s me.” Here’s more from Barthelette about Wood and Weather.

“I like to think it’s some sort of good I’m doing,” Barthelette says of finding new homes for the old drums he’s acquired. “It’s not just about making a buck. It’s about getting that instrument into the right hands, whether it’s off someone’s shelf and into a studio, with a touring band, or on someone else’s shelf.”

I started from collecting. I kind of always worked dead-end jobs. I worked in a factory for a long time, touring a little bit here and there. Eventually I found an early-’60s blue sparkle Ludwig kit. I cleaned it up the best I could and fixed up the snare. Took a lot of learning, figuring it out as I went. I was blown away by the sound. Custom drums were a big thing when I was coming up, and I found this old kit that was worlds better than the kit I was playing. I was hooked from there, pretty much buying every vintage drum I could find in my area. It got to the point that I had so much stuff I had to start selling. Eventually I quit my factory job and just started buying and selling drums. It took me about a year before I came up with the name and decided to do it as a legitimate thing.

When I started it was a lot of hunting and grinding and spending my last dollar on what I could find, when I could find it. The game’s kind of changed in the past few years. A lot of people are out looking for this stuff, whether it’s other stores or just hobbyists. If I had to survive on just hunting now, I don’t think I’d be able to do it. Now that I have somewhat of a name with the shop, I get a lot of people that come to me with stuff. I find that I’m buying a lot of collections, rather than just one or two kits at a time. It helps being a store. A hobbyist can’t afford to take ten kits from someone. It ends up being a win-win where I buy them at a fair price, and I’ve saved the seller from having to deal with a bunch of people and a million questions and shipping kits individually.

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One way Barthelette is managing outgrowing his current space is by re-arranging the inventory. “I move the shop around all the time,” he says. “I set up new fixtures, all that stuff. I just like to constantly change.”

If you’re a collector, you stay pretty sharp on values. I think most sellers [are aware what their gear is worth]. But the market goes up and down. Sometimes you have to do a little educating on the market. I really just base it off how I’ve been selling and what I’ve seen other stuff sell for. And I talk to a lot of other guys. Chris Hawthorne (of Hawthorne Drum Shop in Pittsburgh) and I have a lot of conversations about pricing. You’ve got to keep the market level and make sure you’re not stepping on other toes or tanking the market.

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I try to answer online questions about my drums the best I can. You can list all the details, take good pictures, but you still get a million questions about one or two details you may have missed. The hardest questions are always the sound-related questions. It’s definitely tough to describe the way a drum sounds. I don’t really deal with cymbals online. That’s opening a whole can of worms of questions. I can describe a drum, but to describe a cymbal is really, um, tough. [laughs]

Lots of people drive up from New York, and they spend the day or spend a few hours. It doesn’t really matter where I am, as long as I’m remotely close to a highway—and I’m right near the Mass Pike—I think that works. I get a lot of touring drummers. Mostly when bands are playing in Northampton [Massachusetts], but I’ll have guys drive out if they’re playing in Boston or Rhode Island. Brian Blade drove out after playing the Newport Folk Festival last year to visit the shop. We spent a few hours together in the shop, and that was pretty special. He ended up getting a kit a month later.

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Shopper’s Tip

Don’t be afraid of blemishes or small inconsistencies with vintage drums. They all have them. And they all sound the way they do because of them. Sometimes vintage drums sound the way they do because they have uneven edges or they’re a little bit out of round or there’s a slight something. They all have quirks. A lot of people obsess over vintage kits being really perfect, and it’s not the case most of the time.