Drum Headquarters Closes After 30 Years: Share Your Stories

Categories: Homespun

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Jim Uding has been busy. He has been a bit tough to get a hold of lately, and he admits it. He's sorry about it. "I apologize," Uding says. He sighs. "I'm knee-deep in ending my business."

The business is Drum Headquarters, a community music staple where he used to greet customers with a grin. He sounds almost wistful and then changes paces rapidly in an understandable confession: "You know what? I've told a lot of stories about this recently, and I think I need to pass this time. Is that OK?"

The last two weeks have found the store's owner, Uding, and a stable sphere of its devotees mourning the loss of one of the only independent drum specialty store in the area, one that lasted more than thirty years before officially succumbing to the demands of a fitful economy on July 7.

The store, in its most recent home in Maplewood at Manchester and Southwest, closed because of a combination of issues that included a changing financial mood in which buyers could no longer be as loyal with their money to the store as before. The independent store was both an intimate way to buy equipment in the middle of the city's wealth of chains and a genuinely personal experience. Drum Headquarters won the RFT's award for Best Musical Instrument Store in 2006 and 2007 in no small part because of its friendly personality and the attention to details of its customers' needs.

Although its owner, Uding, is understandably hesitant to go into the store's story anymore, there are plenty of longtime customers who feel like paying tribute. Shawn O'Connor, drummer for Yowie and R6 Implant, spent twenty years of his musical life frequenting Drum Headquarters twice a month. His first experience with the store was a trip for drumsticks at its previous location in a strip mall a little farther down Manchester. "It was a store filled with people who were honest and actually enthusiastic about what they were selling," O'Connor says. "It was populated by drummers who really knew how to play and knew their equipment. They were honest, so if there was a new thing out, they'd be the first to tell you, 'That's mostly marketing. Wait and get a different one.'"

That's where he bought his 22-inch Zildjian ride cymbal six years ago. Buying a new cymbal can be a surprisingly tricky ordeal: The goal is to match it in appearance and sound quality to your other cymbals, a decision that can take considerable time before a conclusion is reached. "I remember bringing them my three cymbals in and banging on them for an hour while we took pains to find the perfect match," O'Connor says. "It meant a lot to me."

Because of his experience with Drum Headquarters and its focus on creating a community, O'Connor is reticent to take his future business to a more corporate level. O'Connor plans to make the trip to Fred Pierce Studio Drum Shop. Still, he'll miss Drum Headquarters.

"It made the others look like a joke," O'Connor says. "Locally, a lot of people are going to end up going to chain stores like Guitar Center and talking to people who would be totally happy to sell them garbage if it will make them an extra buck. I felt like I got punched in the throat unexpectedly. It's hard to exaggerate."

We'd love to hear more stories about the local gem that was Drum Headquarters. If you have one to share, please add it in our comments section.

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I have so many great memories of DHQ ..from al the clinics & master classes to the comradary that I always felt. I had the pleasure of teaching lessons for 6years at the St.Peters store back in the heyday!..I still have students that tell me how much they enjoyed the DHQ experience...And I'll also never forget my first time whe I bought some sticks and a drum head. It was like a dream come true! Heaven on earth!..a DRUM shop! only drums!!..and everyone was very friendly & helpfull & treated me as if I'd been comming there for years!..I feel bad for the whole DHQ crew,, I wish them all the best & I will always be greatfull for the opportunities that Rob & Jim opened up for me in the St.Louis music scene.. thanks DHQ!!!

Julian Eubanks
Julian Eubanks

I no longer live in St. Louis, but Drum Headquarters will be sorely missed. When I moved to St. Louis, a place that was home for 10 years,  it was a God-send to have a store completely devoted to drums. I didn't have to walk through isles of guitars to get to the good stuff. Nuthin'but drums. Forget Iowa, that's Heaven! I have SO many stories about my relationship with Headquarters and the fine staff therein. I wouldn't know where to start. It wasn't just a store. It was a community. You walk in and they know who you are. You can talk shop, and equipment, and opinions on gear and life. It's a shame. Stupid economy! I have several prized possessions from that place that are even more precious to me now. R.I.P., Drum Headquarters. Thanks for the memories.

Daniel Scott Williams
Daniel Scott Williams

It was weird when they closed, because there was almost no warning.  They closed on the 7th, and my wife said they posted something on Facebook on like the 5th.  I had just been there maybe 10 days prior for a new hi-hat stand!  It's a total bummer.  I'm in the same boat as Shawn.  I'll be checking out Fred Pierce the next time I need something.  There's also an independent music shop that just moved up the street from GC.  It's Kirkwood Music, or Music City, or something.  But it's not a drum specific shop.


Thanks for this story RFT. My whole drumming life has been backed by this store.  So many great memories. Almost as important as your dad teaching you to ride your bike.  THANKS DHQ!

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