ABOUT GOWANUS AUDIO
Gowanus Audio wants you to get excited about listening to music.
Whether by building your own gear with our classes and kits, using our full-service design/build services for your bar or retail sound system, or joining one of our regular hangs to hear some incredible equipment and nerd out, it’s the listening experience that matters. The system should disappear, but can’t be ignored.
There are few pleasures that are as satisfying (and as consistently repeatable!) as sitting on your couch with a drink and a favorite album. You are transported. (Right? Right?? C’mon… If you don’t agree, you know someone who does...)
We want to create more of that.
More hairs on the back of the neck standing up when the vocals kick in, more jumping out of your seat because that kick drum caught you by surprise, more looking behind you when it “sounds like” it came from the back of the room. It’s also about having more objects in your living room that you care about. Objects you’re happy to stare at while you listen to an album. Things that look and sound good. Objects that mean something, with their own story.
That’s the feeling that we’re after.
Pete Raho founded Gowanus Audio in 2016 as a way to combine his passion for building his own audio gear and general nerdery with a desire to teach all that to others.
His career has taken a serpentine path, bouncing between corporate life and being covered with glue and sawdust, but that’s always been his way. Way back in college he majored in both art history and biology. He sits somewhere in the middle. Generally, more flashlight than laser.
In previous lifetimes, he spent the better part of a decade in the art world (auctions, specifically), then, after earning his MBA, started Gowanus Furniture Co., focusing on custom pieces to solve small-NYC-apartment problems. Later, he returned to the corporate world in retail, focusing on furniture and product quality, and from there on to Gowanus Audio.
With each step, it was always a blend of the analytical and the creative, mixed with what came before.
In that same spirit, Gowanus Audio sits somewhere in the middle - it’s not just “teaching classes” or “selling speakers” or “DIY meetups” - it’s a business that offers classes, meetups, and kits as a way to get you into the hobby and give you the keys to unlock it all, and we think that whatever we do to grow this community is good for all of us.
What’s up with the name?
Pete currently lives in Gowanus (and has for longer than he’d care to remember), so there’s that, but it goes back a bit more to years ago when he started Gowanus Furniture Co. - in 2011. Gowanus had a different vibe then, and the name seemed an apt metaphor at the time for what he was trying to do - focus on small-scale urban manufacturing.
Back then, there was that craft revival going on and you couldn’t throw a pickle without hitting someone making leather wallets. To him, for any of that to be viable here (where there rents are so high), the products needed to be standardized (but customizable) to be profitable, and that “locally made” needed to be a selling point, and above all, genuine craftsmanship. On the other hand, if you were focusing on mass-production or custom one-offs, it made more sense to be located elsewhere. He even gave a talk about it.
For a while, it worked well. Gowanus Furniture Co. made and sold thousands of cutting boards, as well as custom countertops, table tops, shelving units, and bike racks. Back then, industrial space was still relatively cheap, small businesses and studios still existed, demand was there, and, with the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, it seemed like development was on hold. Creative fabrication could exist comfortably within the fabric of the city.
Fast-forward to 2014 and it was all changing, fast. The land-grab was back on. Whole Foods was open on 3rd Avenue, the Lightstone development was going up, and a slew of new restaurants, breweries, climbing gyms, fencing clubs, spas, more breweries, tech companies, shuffleboard clubs, and even (lo and behold!) ax throwing bars moved in. It was the Gowanus Recreation District. And it all made sense. All of those pay better rents than manufacturing or studio space - any landlord would take that (and some of the spots are pretty fun). On his own block, in a five year span, about 70% of the buildings were gutted and renovated (or torn down all together) and turned into swank single family homes or condos. Such is progress. (Also, let's be real - Gowanus Audio does offer classes to build your own speakers, so we do fit right in, I suppose...)
All that to say, now it’s called Gowanus Audio. Continuing in the tradition and not unrelated. A different neighborhood and business, but both still full of contrasts, sitting somewhere in the middle, and not easily categorized. The business too is still about creating products and customers will want to keep the long haul. Not disposable. Not ephemeral. Not forgettable.