The question about what drummers are like elicits a howl of laughter from Matt Jansen, who is one himself.
“We catch a lot of flack,” he said.
“You have to be comfortable in the back of the room. But you’re usually the loudest instrument on the stage, if you want to be.”
Jansen has been putting his personal knowledge of the craft to use at Midwest Drum & Percussion for 20 years, the last three months as owner.
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The sale almost didn’t happen as he waited for financing from the Small Business Administration as the store’s inventory dwindled to a single drum set.
“People asked if we were closing,” he said. “They were concerned.”
Today, it’s packed with drums, drum heads, pedals and thrones, cymbals, cajons, chimes, djembes, congas, tambourines and, yes, more than one cowbell.
Jansen – who plays the drums in church and in a band with friends – carries 144 models of drumsticks, in all variations of thickness, tips, balance and color. There also is a small selection of guitars.
Midwest Drum was opened in 1992 by Chuck Blackim and his son, Blake.
Chuck Blackim “was a cat back in the ’60s. He was hot. He was the Steve Hatfield of his day,” Jansen said, referring to a well-known Wichita drummer and instructor.
Jansen left his job in customer service at Cox Communications to break down boxes and sweep the floors at Midwest. He went back and forth between working full and part time there as he also ran a recording studio before becoming store manager in 2006.
“I learned a lot of things from Blake,” Jansen said. “But there are a few things we had a different take on.”
Jansen said one goal is to make sure Midwest Drum is always fully stocked with sticks, heads and other components so that drummers “know they’re going to walk out with what they need for their gig.”
“If you can get the local guys coming back, then when it comes to bigger purchases, they’ll do that, too,” he said.
Jansen said Midwest is the area’s biggest specialty drum store, although many others carry drums and percussion instruments. Jansen bought the building from Blake Blackim and decided to keep the name, although he is doing business as a new corporation formed with his wife, Natalie.
Blackim continues to own Midwest Drum & Percussion in Salina.
Jansen added that he couldn’t have bought the store without his wife, who used much of an inheritance. A full-time phlebotomist, Natalie Jansen isn’t involved in the store’s day-to-day operations but participates in all major decisions.
The store offers repairs and lessons on drums and guitar, and sells some used and consigned instruments. Jansen also restores vintage drums, where he says most of his market is online.
“I can always get a new (drum) kit, but when I find the old stuff, that’s what I really enjoy.”
After two decades, Jansen says, Midwest Drum would have been his legacy whether or not he bought it. There haven’t been many surprises as owner, but one thing is different.
“There’s a heaviness to it,” he said. “If I wake up at 6 a.m., I’m not going back to sleep.”