Apr 282010
Authors: Matt Miller

Every wall inside Spotlight Music on Harmony Road and College Avenue is covered in guitars –– all makes, models and colors. Some rooms are filled with drums. Others with amps and keyboards. 
This vast selection rivals the stock of many corporate music stores.

Down the street at Boomer Music it’s the same case. Students take lessons from local musicians while their parents stay and chat with other customers, even though they could running errands elsewhere.

These stores match the Guitar Centers of the world in stock, but that’s not what makes them special. These independent stores surpass the simple role of supply and demand that is usually found at big chain stores.

Spotlight and Boomer give local musicians a place to call their own –– a place that gives them exactly what they want when they need it. These stores fuel the creativity of local musicians, something not seen at with big chains. 

More than money

In light of tough economic times, most small music retailers are being forced to shut down, yielding to bigger chain stores. But for Spotlight and Boomer, business has never rocked harder, which Spotlight owner Rob Curcy said can be attributed to the sense of community.

“It’s all about community,” Curcy, 43, said. The store, which has been in open for 10 years, has seen an increase in customers who say they have developed a mistrust of the faceless chain music stores like Guitar Center. 

“Fort Collins musicians don’t want corporate America,” Curcy said. “They live here, and they don’t want to funnel money out.”

Curcy said that the success of his business is due to the dedication of local musicians who appreciate his honest approach.

Drew Holmes, 33, owner of Boomer, has seen a similar trait in local musicians.

“Fort Collins, being the town that it is, people are inclined to support small businesses,” Holmes said.  “My store is not a nameless, faceless conglomerate.” 

Holmes, like Curcy, feels that his success is due to a business model that caters to the customer. “I don’t want commission sales people. They make the customer feel that they are being sold.” 

Holmes said his shop, which has been open for 33 years, has seen great business even in the face the current recession. Both stores have seen incredible success from musicians moving away from corporate stores and are expanding. 

Curcy has built a stage for local bands and even a café for customers to congregate.  His goal is to make Spotlight a “musician based community store.”

Boomer recently moved to a bigger location at the corner of Horsetooth Road and Mason Street to provide practice spaces and onsite repairs.

Holmes said the reason many businesses have gone under around him is because they fail to change with the times. But stores like Spotlight and Boomer have adapted to what their customers want and changed their business strategy to cater to customers.

Spotlight caters to a diverse music scene, Curcy said, which ranges from “young kids to people in their 80s” and from bluegrass to heavy metal.

“The advantage of being a smaller business is that you can be flexible with your merchandise and adjust to changes in the community needs,” Holmes said.  His store, which houses the largest collection of sheet music in northern Colorado, has begun to stock Spanish sheet music to meet local demand.

“You have two chances to win a customer for life,” Holmes said.  “One is do (business) right, and the other is to prove it wasn’t an accident.”

Nothing like home

“I don’t want to walk into a music store and feel like just another number,” said sophomore art major Brad Vieira. “I care about my music, and I want the people who sell me equipment to care about me and treat me like a human.”

For a long time Vieira shopped at Guitar Center, until he was drawn in by the community that local stores offered.

“Sometimes I go to Spotlight when I don’t even need to buy anything,” Vieira said.  “The guys there are like my friends. I can just talk to them without feeling like I’m wasting their time by not buying anything.”

Vieira, like other musicians in the area, wants to go to a store that gives them a sense of community. 

“When I’m just talking with people at Spotlight, I feel like I’m part of something,” Vieira said. “Even though we don’t all make the same music, part of Fort Collins is in what we play.”

“Spotlight has a lot of equipment, but it also has that local feel,” said sophomore business major Dan Bombard. “It’s got a good vibe.” 
Bombard added that as far as price and selection goes local stores are about the same as big corporate stores. The difference really just boils down to customer service.

“You lose nothing by going to a local shop,” Bombard said.  “But you gain that sense of town pride.”

Staff writer Matt Miller can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

Spotlight Music

  • Location: 4606 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, CO 80525
  • Phone number: (970) 337-8066
  • Hours: Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Boomer Music

  • Location: 3761 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, CO 80525
  • Phone number: (970) 223-2424
  • Hours: Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed Sundays
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