Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Executive Diversion

Condo developer keeps the beat playing drums in a rock band

For St. Petersburg real estate developer Fred Hemmer, age is just a number as he pursues his rock ’n’ roll fantasies behind a drum kit.

  • By Brian Hartz
  • | 5:00 a.m. January 8, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Fred Hemmer was given his first drum set some 40 years ago.
Fred Hemmer was given his first drum set some 40 years ago.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
  • Share

Fred Hemmer, a partner with HP Capital Group, a real estate investment firm developing Reflection, a new luxury condominium tower in downtown St. Petersburg’s Mirror Lake. The 18-story, 88-unit project, at 777 Third. Ave. N., is slated to open in 2024. Hemmer comes to real estate from a career in banking, where, among other posts, he was chief lending officer of Republic Bank. He also served on the board of Flagship Community Bank in Clearwater before it was acquired. 


Drumming. Hemmer, 69, recently took up the drums and plays in a rock band called Corner Store Thieves. The group, which mostly plays covers of classic rock songs, is made up of students who take music lessons at School of Rock in St. Pete. Hemmer says he was given a drum set in his 20s but never took formal music lessons and never performed in public until recently, when the band played a gig at Ferg’s, a venerable sports bar in St. Pete.

Under the influence: Hemmer has eclectic musical tastes but tends to gravitate toward jazz and progressive rock. His favorite drummer is Gavin Harrison, a Brit who plays in a prog-rock outfit called Porcupine Tree but has also manned the kit for King Crimson, a group that — along with the likes of Genesis and Yes — helped pioneer the progressive rock genre in the 1970s.

“The stuff we’re doing is more classic rock,” Hemmer says, “all the songs that everybody would know. The stuff I like, people don’t know, like Porcupine Tree, one of my favorite bands. None of my friends have ever heard of them.

Fan boy: Hemmer has traveled as far as Boston, New York and even Rome to see Porcupine Tree play live. He also is a huge fan of Billy Cobham, a jazz drummer who continues to perform well into his 70s. Cobham has played with the likes of Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and he’s inspired and influenced a wide range of skinsmen, from Phil Collins to Danny Carey, the drummer of Tool, a Grammy-winning progressive metal band. “He’s 77 years old and one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen,” he says. “And he’s still playing at the same level.”

Generation gap: At 69, Hemmer is the oldest member of Corner Store Thieves, but he relishes the camaraderie with his bandmates, who range in age from 21 to 62. The group was put together by the team at School of Rock. “I knew none of them, but we got lucky, because we all get along so well,” Hemmer says. 

For the love of music: Corner Store Thieves haven’t landed any paid gigs yet but they’d like to at some point. Hemmer, however, says a second career or side hustle is not his intention. 

“We’re not doing this for money. We're doing this for the fun of playing and getting better.”

Practice makes perfect: In the early days of the band’s existence, Corner Store Thieves would rehearse once a week at School of Rock and then supplement that with practice at their lead guitarist’s home every other week. Hemmer also hones his skills on his own, playing on an electronic drum set that pipes sound in through headphones so he doesn’t bother his wife.

Fred Hemmer plays in a rock band called Corner Store Thieves.
Photo by Mark Wemple

“For all the joy of playing, there’s a lot more rehearsal and thinking and practice time that leads up to it,” he says. 

Physical challenges: Hemmer understands that he’s chosen one of the most physically demanding instruments to play. Phil Collins, just a couple of years older than Hemmer, retired from performing last year because of a spinal injury and nerve damage caused by decades of drumming, and he’s said he can no longer even hold a drumstick properly. 

Hemmer, too, has dealt with back issues and is currently on the shelf with a knee injury, but his bandmates continue to rehearse and he plans to rejoin them when he’s recovered. “I’ve had to learn how to tape my hands to avoid blisters and things like that,” he says. 

Stress relief: For Hemmer, banging away at the drum kit is “absolutely” a great way to decompress and clear his head after a long day in the office. “When I go home most nights, even if I jump on for just 10 to 15 minutes and play a couple of songs, it’s a natural high,” he says. 

Stay sharp: As he looks ahead to his eighth decade, Hemmer says playing the drums has helped keep him mentally fit. “They say one of the things you should do is keep your brain active, do crossword puzzles and all that stuff,” he says. “But actually, the two best things you can do is learn a foreign language and learn an instrument, learn to read music.”

Correction: This article has been updated to describe Reflection as an 88-unit project at 777 Third. Ave. N. opening in 2024.


Latest News


Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.