New independent music store opens in Durham

From staff reportsDecember 6, 2012 

The Triangle has a new independent music store whose roots go deep in the area’s music history.

Last year, the Durham audio company Sound Pure bought Indoor Storm, a Raleigh music store that sold customized boutique drums and guitars. (Old-timers will remember that the store got its start in the old Music Loft in Carrboro.)

With the acquisition, Sound Pure took over Indoor Storm’s inventory and started making plans to add a retail store to its existing location in downtown Durham, Sound Pure President Todd Atlas said.

Sound Pure – for those who aren’t audiophiles – sells high-end recording equipment, guitars, drums, mikes and the like.

Atlas started the company from his Duke University dorm room in 1997. A music and economics major at the time, the business was a way to feed his love of good gear. “They make the best mikes in the world in Germany, so I made a bunch of calls and found someone who would do business with a kid,” Atlas said. “I wired my life savings to Germany, and then went to Germany and met with them.”

He came back and sold those first mikes on eBay for $2,000 or so each. His business plan: “If I sold five, I could keep one.” Eventually, Atlas had enough mikes for himself, and a business. (He said an early customer was Eminem.)

Sound Pure graduated from the dorm to an apartment and then to an apartment and house, and finally to an apartment and the basements of two homes. In 2005, Atlas bought a 100-year-old building in downtown Durham and began a three-year project to turn it into offices, conference space, a warehouse, recording studio and acoustic-only guitar showroom.

At that point, most of its business was still online or Internet-based. “You could see everything, but it wasn’t open and inviting,” he said.

The new storefront – “You can see the guitars in the windows” – changes all of that. The store will sell custom-made boutique guitars – many made in North Carolina – and drums, as well as the usual tools of a musician’s trade, such as strings, picks, amps, cables and drumheads. But don’t come expecting to find a Fender telecaster or anything else you can pick up at big-box guitar store, Atlas said. Nor would this be the place to get the starter guitar for your kid.

Prices range from $500 to $25,000 with the bulk in the $1,000-to-$2,000 range, he said. “We have guitars by world-class artists who are making something functional,” he said.

As for the rest of Sound Pure’s business, the recording studio is used for commercial work and by local musicians such as Shirley Caesar, Nnenna Freelon and Clay Aiken. It also functions on a retail level by showcasing everything the company sells – computers, microphones, speakers, furniture, cables, guitars and drums – for those who fancy a home recording studio.

Atlas admits that most of the gear is not for working musicians living out of a van. “We do sell to professional musicians, but they are a smaller percentage of our business,” he said. “We have a slightly older clientele who have careers and enjoy playing music.”

The store celebrates its opening this weekend with clinics, demonstrations and, of course, musical performances from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at 732 Washington St.

Northgate Mall in Durham continues to add seasonal shops. The latest are all from local entrepreneurs: E&F Fashion, which sells knit clothes for men and women as well as blankets; Forever Gifts, which sells customized holiday ornaments and dog and cat picture frames; Pretty in a Minute, which sells salon styling equipment; and Smokin’ Gunz Airbrush, which offers customized airbrush painting on apparel, helmets and skateboards.

Staff writer Mary Cornatzer

Send retail items to

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service