Strum and Drum in the Heights — Music Store Guitar Bar Drum Den Opens in Jersey City

Bang a drum, there’s a new store in town! Wait, you don’t have a drum? Then definitely march down to 362 Palisade Avenue to visit GBDD, the Guitar Bar Drum Den. The full-service music shop opened on October 31.

Area musicians are already very familiar with both halves of the store’s name: Guitar Bar has two locations in Hoboken (160 1st St. and Guitar Bar Jr. at 203 11th St.) while the Drum Den holds a spot in Hoboken’s famous Neumann Leathers Building (333 Newark St.). Owners James Mastro of the Guitar Bar and Pete Martinez of the Drum Den — both Jersey City Heights residents — felt the time was right to expand up the hill.

“The Heights is such a culturally rich area that surprisingly had no music store,” Mastro explained. “It seemed like an easy and satisfying void to fill.”

“I, for one, am simply trying to make my morning commute even easier,” Martinez joked. “The community is diverse, creative, and energetic — just the kind of people that need a good music store!”

GBDD offers a wide selection of both acoustic and electric guitars.

GBDD offers a wide selection of acoustic guitars, electric guitars, ukuleles, etc.

In addition to guitars and drums, the store stocks keyboards, microphones, amplifiers, and recording equipment. “Being a small store, in comparison to the ‘big guys,’ we only have space to carry items that we believe in and have tried and tested,” Mastro said. “You have to think beyond the obvious and try to anticipate that small item that someone needs.”

They also offer lessons in guitar, bass, drums, piano, voice, and more. Instrument repairs, rentals, and consignment sales are part of GBDD’s established formula as well. But the real key is a knowledgeable staff.

“We’re musicians first, salesmen second,” Mastro said. “Pete, me, and our staff are all working musicians who have much to offer in experience and advice.”

James Mastro (left) and Pete Martinez celebrate the opening of their new store, Guitar Bar Drum Den.

James Mastro (left) and Pete Martinez celebrate the opening of their new store, Guitar Bar Drum Den.

Mastro himself has been a nationally-noted guitarist for over three decades. As a member of the Bongos — a key band in the early days of Hoboken’s legendary club Maxwell’s — he found major-label success and appeared on MTV. By the 1990s, Mastro was leading his own band, the rootsy Health & Happiness Show. Since then, he’s been an in-demand producer, tours the globe as guitarist and bandleader for Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame, and is also a member of local rockers the Karyn Kuhl Band. In 1996, Mastro opened Guitar Bar, with Guitar Bar Jr. following in 2000.

Martinez said, “I grew up in Hoboken, so how could I not know Jim Mastro and Guitar Bar?” Martinez started on the drums in high school, and studied music in college. He played in everything from punk bands to musical-theater pit orchestras, and early on started giving drum lessons (more than 200 students to date).

Mastro recalled, “People in Hoboken kept talking about this great drummer in this [surf-punk] band the Coffin Daggers that I should check out. (Martinez is also known for his work with local indie faves Stuyvesant.) When I finally met Pete, he lived up to the hype. I asked him if he’d like to teach at Guitar Bar, and luckily he said yes. We’ve been friends ever since.”

During Martinez’s stint at the shop, an idea struck. “As great as Guitar Bar is, I felt that drummers needed a Guitar Bar, or in this case, we needed a Drum Den!” he said. “Fast-forward to 2010 when the Drum Den opened its doors.”

Grammy-winning local drummer Dylan Wissing playing with his son Max in GBDD's lesson studio.

Grammy-winning local drummer Dylan Wissing playing with his son Max in GBDD’s lesson studio.

Fast-forward another five years, and they’ve joined forces to create Guitar Bar Drum Den. In addition to the products and services customers know from their Hoboken locations, GBDD’s owners are paying attention to the new neighborhood. “The Latin community is very prominent here, and we look forward to expanding our inventory to accommodate their needs too,” Mastro said. Martinez added, “GBDD will be stocking a wider selection of Latin percussion instruments than we normally carry at the Drum Den.”

Mastro and Martinez couldn’t be happier to be drumming up business in Jersey City Heights, praising the diversity, friendly neighbors, and seemingly non-stop activity. “There’s something very special about the Heights; it reveals a surprise with every venture out,” Mastro explained. “There’s a hint of lawlessness here that lends itself to being creative. When you’re at the top of the rock like we are in the Heights, you can see things quite differently.”

Guitar Bar staffer Keenan McRae (right) jamming with Benjamin Odry (left) and Damon Robinson (drums) at GBDD.

Guitar Bar staffer Keenan McRae (right) jamming with Benjamin Odry (left) and Damon Robinson (drums) at GBDD.

Guitar Bar Drum Den (GBDD) is located at 362 Palisade Ave. They can be reached at 201.653.3000 or find them on Facebook.

Photos courtesy Guitar Bar Drum Den

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Jack Silbert

is a writer, editor, internet-radio DJ and occasional emcee. He is the author of several books and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Press, New Jersey Monthly, Weird NJ, and other publications. Jack’s humorous ramblings can be found at Salt In Wound.