Steve and Colleen Boynton opened First String Music 15 years ago with hopes of giving back, contributing to the community where they lived and, of course, bringing a little music to Northwest Colorado.
The couple knew the news they shared Monday morning, July 11, that the full-service music store in Steamboat Springs will be closing its doors on Aug. 10 was not going to be music to the ears for many who call Steamboat home.
“This is our second home. We spend as much time here as we do at home,” Colleen said. “I think of all of the people that we’ve gotten to know and all of the customers 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 gets to be a musician, and I’m going to start painting.”
Over the years, the store has enjoyed the support of the community — including customers who range from talented, professional musicians to schoolchildren picking up an instrument for the first time.
“As a guitar player, that store was a huge upgrade for any music store in this town,” said Randy Kelley, a local musician. “Steve brought an amazing level of skills and knowledge to this town. Besides being an awesome guitar player in jazz, blues, classical and folk, he was just the nicest guy and was always so helpful.”
Steve credited the business’ success to its focus on providing services that are needed, and he said that its approach was more about giving back than it was making money.
He said the idea was formed after meeting local musician Dave Allen at a coffee shop in downtown Steamboat just before opening the store in late 2006.
“When people move to town, they’re always looking for opportunities based on what our town can do for them,” Steve said. “(Allen) told me the people who really succeed try to bring something new that actually benefits our town instead of approaching Steamboat as a resource to go be mined.”
First String spent the first couple of years in the Taylor Building at 1744 Lincoln Ave. At the time, Steve, who had been repairing stringed instruments and doing a little recording out of his home, was thrilled to get the new space.
But it didn’t take long before he and Colleen realized they needed more room to work.
So he and Colleen purchased the last remaining space in Logger’s Lane, which had just been built. After purchasing the spot, Steve went to work transforming it to meet the store’s needs and the community it served.
With 3,000-plus square feet, the space offered plenty of room for acoustic, electric, bass guitars and even ukuleles. Customers also found keyboards and all the accessories a musician might need in a pinch on the night of a big gig.
“When I have a problem with something, First Stings was always there,” Kelley said. “If my pedal board or my guitar was doing something funny, I could just go over to Steve and he could either fix it or show me where I could go to have it fixed. I’m just gonna miss that knowledge base and that accessibility of repairs to 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 had violins and other string instruments often found in orchestras.
“We sold just about everything,” Steve said.
The store also offered several rooms in the back where local music teachers could lease space and inspire future generations with their lessons, whether it was singing, piano, guitar or any other instrument.
Additionally, Steve had a recording studio in one of the rooms and often worked with local bands and musicians to record their work at a professional level.
His repair skills allowed the store to repair any stringed instrument, and thanks to his knowledge and relationships with other talented locals, he could line up repairs for just about any musical instrument or piece of equipment.
The store also took the lead arranging rentals for local schools and servicing instruments that needed repairs. Steve said he is currently working to transfer that part of the business.
“We’re trying to reach all of our existing rental customers, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do,” Steve said. “Sometimes they pick up the phone or respond to an email. Sometimes, they don’t … If you are a rental customer, we’re still servicing your instrument and we’ll contact you if anything changes.”
Steve and Colleen said that for the past 15 years, the store has become a sort of community center where musicians could gather and young students could come and go based on their own musical aspirations.
They say the importance of the store only grew with customers coming from all over Northwest Colorado including Meeker, Craig, Walden and across Wyoming, as well as from Steamboat Springs, Glenwood, Grand Junction and Denver.
For many years, First String was the only music store in Northwest Colorado.
Steve and Colleen are holding onto hope that someone in the area will step in to open their own music store. Treble in the Yampa recently opened in Craig, and it could help fill the gap.
First String has begun the process of clearing out its remaining merchandise with a progressive closing sale. However, once the inventory is gone that’s it.
The store is open from noon to 5:30 pm Monday through Thursday, from noon to 5 pm on Fridays and noon to 3 pm on Saturdays.
The Boyntons said they always knew the day would come when they would shift gears and pursue other things in their life. The clock started running after Colleen’s youngest son graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2021, they said.
Earlier this year, Yampa Valley Design made an offer on the location, and the deal closed last week.
Steve, who grew up just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said it was a tough decision. In Michigan, he often visited a cool music store, and he knows first-hand how inspirational a setting like that can be.
He still recalls going into that store, which he described as a funky place that sold inexpensive guitars, and the impact that had on him.
“For parents who want to get their kids into playing, there is just nothing like coming into a place like this,” Steve said. “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.