Steve and Colleen Boynton opened First String Music 15 years ago with hopes of giving back, contributing to the community they live in and of course bringing a little music to Northwest Colorado.
The pair knew the news they shared on Monday morning, July 11, that the full-service music store in Steamboat Springs will be closing its doors on August 10 is no music for many who call Steamboat home would be in the ears.
“This is our second home. We spend as much time here as we do at home,” said Colleen. “Thinking of all the people we’ve met and all the clients that have become friends – it’s bittersweet. But we’re not getting any younger, and it’s time for us to do other things. Steve becomes a musician and I start painting.”
Over the years, the shop has enjoyed the support of the community – including customers ranging from talented, professional musicians to school children picking up an instrument for the first time.
“As a guitarist, this store was a huge upgrade for any music store in this town,” said Randy Kelley, a local musician. “Steve brought an amazing level of skill and knowledge to this city. Besides being a great jazz, blues, classical and folk guitarist, he was just the nicest guy and always so helpful.”
Steve attributed the company’s success to its focus on providing services that are needed, and he said his approach is more about giving back than making money.
He said the idea came about after meeting local musician Dave Allen at a coffee shop in downtown Steamboat just before the store opened in late 2006.
“When people move to the city, they always look for opportunities based on what our city can do for them,” Steve said. “(Allen) told me that the people who really succeed are trying to bring something new that actually benefits our town, rather than approaching Steamboat as a resource to be mined.”
First String spent its first few years in the Taylor Building on Lincoln Ave. 1744. By this time Steve, who had been repairing stringed instruments and recording a little from home, was excited to get the new rooms.
But it wasn’t long before he and Colleen realized they needed more space to work.
So he and Colleen bought the last vacant spot on Logger’s Lane that had just been built. After purchasing the spot, Steve set to work redesigning it to fit the needs of the store and the community it served.
At over 3,000 square feet, the room had plenty of room for acoustic, electric, bass guitars and even ukuleles. Customers also found keyboards and all the accessories a musician might need in an emergency on the night of a big gig.
“If I had a problem with something, First Stings was always there,” Kelley said. “If my pedalboard or guitar did something weird, I could just go to Steve and he could either fix it or show me where I could get it fixed. I will just miss this knowledge base and the accessibility of repairs on my instruments.”
Of course, First String offered more than guitars, as the store also sold and rented band instruments like saxophones and clarinets. The store also stocked violins and other stringed instruments often found in orchestras.
“We pretty much sold everything,” said Steve.
The store also offered several rooms at the back where local music teachers could rent space and inspire future generations with their lessons, be it singing, piano, guitar or another instrument.
Also, Steve had a recording studio in one of the rooms and often worked with local bands and musicians to record their work on a professional level.
His repair skills enabled the shop to repair any stringed instrument, and through his knowledge and relationships with other talented locals, he was able to arrange repairs for almost any musical instrument or piece of equipment.
The shop also took the lead in arranging rentals for local schools and servicing instruments that needed repairs. Steve said he is currently working on transferring that part of the business.
“We’re trying to reach all of our existing rental customers, which isn’t always easy,” said Steve. “Sometimes they pick up the phone or reply to an email. Sometimes not… If you are a rental customer, we continue to service your instrument and will contact you if anything changes.”
Steve and Colleen said that over the past 15 years the store has become something of a community center where musicians meet and young students can come and go based on their own musical ambitions.
They say the store’s importance only grew as customers came from across Northwest Colorado, including Meeker, Craig, Walden and all of Wyoming, as well as Steamboat Springs, Glenwood, Grand Junction and Denver.
For many years, First String was the only music store in Northwest Colorado.
Steve and Colleen hold out hope that someone in the area will step in to open their own music store. Treble in the Yampa recently opened in Craig and could help bridge the gap.
First String has begun clearing its remaining inventory with a phased sale. However, once the inventory is gone, that’s it.
The shop is open Monday to Thursday from 12:00 to 5:30 p.m., Friday from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.
The Boyntons said they always knew there would come a day when they would change gears and pursue other things in their lives. The clock started ticking after Colleen’s youngest son graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2021, they said.
Earlier this year, Yampa Valley Design made a bid for the site, and the deal closed last week.
Steve, who grew up just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said it was a difficult decision. He often visited a cool music store in Michigan and knows from his own experience how inspiring such a setting can be.
He still remembers going into this shop, which he described as a bohemian shop selling cheap guitars, and the impact it had on him.
“For parents who want to get their kids playing, there’s nothing quite like coming to a place like this,” said Steve. “I still remember going to that place and how it made me feel.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.