© 2024 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hear Here: Sam Adato’s Drum Shop, an institution for drummers

Laura Flynn

The phone is ringing and a constant stream of people are coming through the gated door. Sam Adato, a long-haired rocker and owner of the drum shop, buzzes them in from behind the counter.

The intimate shop is a maze of colorful stacks upon stacks of vintage drums. The walls are covered with posters – custom made by Adato – of drummers, rock and roll records, drum equipment and other trinkets he’s collected over the last 20 years from customers and friends. Everyone who comes through the door seems to know each other, it was a familiar place, a place for drummers.

On October 12, 1993, Adato opened up a vintage drum shop on 9th Street in San Francisco, just south of Market. Over the years, the shop became an institution for drummers who dropped in for equipment, tunings, or just to talk sports with Adato. After 20 years, Sam packed up his shop and moved to Eugene, Oregon. Christmas Eve 2012 was the last day Sam Adato’s Drum Shop was open in San Francisco – a few days before the shop closed for good, long-time customers and friends were coming in to say goodbye.

Local drummers Adam Willis and Brandon Etzler reminisce about Adato and the shop.

“I'm going to miss this dude. It is pretty much the only place left in the city. There’s really no drum shops left in the Bay Area that cater to local drummers and don't cater to selling to kids who are just buying kits,” Etzler, a full-time musician laments.

Etzler brought his drums in for a final tuning by Adato. As Adato tunes Etzler’s drums for a funk show he has that night, Vince Lateano, another local drummer, walks in the door.

“Are you Vince Lateano?” Etzler asks.

“Yeah,” Lateano responds.

“You guys have never met?” Adato chimes in, surprised.

Etzler and Lateano carry on about their music connection and cymbals they have shared because of exchanges made at the drum shop.

“It’s called Vintage Drums and it’s all used equipment. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of things here,” Lateano says.

It’s more than a drum shop for many drummers. “You run into guys. It’s kind of a social network,” Lateano explains. 

Lateano, a jazz drummer, has been coming in for years. He walks over to the cymbals and begins lightly tapping them.

“They are like people – they’re all different. If something appeals to me I just gradually, quietly, strike it you know. ... And depending on the style of music you play like for a Jazz player this would be a pretty cool cymbal to have. It has a nice ping and it doesn't have a lot of overtones,” Lateano says as he taps the assortment of gold cymbals.

Etzler practically grew up at Sam Adato’s Drum Shop.

“I started coming here when I got into it in middle school, about the sixth grade and have been coming ever since. It’s just sad that this is closing. It hasn't sunk in but in a few days when this is closed down it’s kind of like the last place for us to kind of go. I'll obviously miss the shop, but mostly Sam. He has been taking care of me since sixth grade,” Etzler says. 

Throughout the years, famous drummers have walked through Adato’s doors, but the less recognizable ones inspired Adato the most. 

What’s a place in your neighborhood that means something to you – and why? Our Hear Here community storytelling project wants to know the answer. If you’ve got a story of a significant place, visit the Participate page at www.hearkere.kalw.org and tell it to us!

You can also find the project on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at @hearhereradio.

Hear Here is part of a national initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Inc designed to bring new journalistic and technical ingenuity to extending public media service to more Americans. From Chinese restaurants in Boston, to shuttered factories in Dayton, to the oil fields of North Dakota, to Bay Area startups, the ten Localore production teams are working with their public station incubators to uncover ground-up stories of America in transition. Follow their development, and learn more at Localore.net.