Spaceman Guitars flying high in Lakewood

Change of address, global pandemic haven’t stopped independent music store

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/14/20

On a stretch of West Colfax, nestled between a phone store and a Kava bar, is a little guitar shop that you may have never noticed. But if you love music, play guitar or simply want to while away …

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Spaceman Guitars flying high in Lakewood

Change of address, global pandemic haven’t stopped independent music store

Posted

On a stretch of West Colfax, nestled between a phone store and a Kava bar, is a little guitar shop that you may have never noticed. But if you love music, play guitar or simply want to while away some time flipping through stacks of vinyl, you should do yourself a favor and pop in to say hello. Spaceman guitars is a labor of love. A small store doing its part to keep the music flowing in Lakewood and beyond. Owner Chris Thomas has a downright solid musical history that started taking shape at a young age.

“I always was a fiddle, gadget type of guy fooling around with electronics of all kinds and amps and was wiring up radios and stuff, and when I started playing guitar it just kind of fit, because you could definitely tweak and fine-tune your instruments to perfect them the way you want them and your amplifiers, so that was about age 14 or 15-years old” Thomas said. “I used to help all of my friends work on their equipment, but it didn’t really dawn on me, “hey, you should be working at a music store, or have a music store, so I’m kind of slow on the uptake sometimes”

While he might have been slow to focus in on the business ownership idea, he quickly became a mainstay as a guitarist on the local scene, gigging in bands for decades. He also spent more than 20 years working on instruments and overseeing the guitar operations at Rockley Music before taking the reins of his own six-string empire about five years ago when the owners at Rockley decided they didn’t want to be in the guitar business any longer.

“The third generation owners, they weren’t guitar players anymore and they just didn’t have the drive to keep the retail thing going,” said Thomas.

Originally setting up shop in a small section of Rockley, Thomas was able to transition into business ownership while making it easy for local guitar players to keep receiving the kind of service they were accustomed to. In October 2019, Thomas relocated his shop to its current location when the owners of Rockley decided it was time to put their building up for sale.

The new store is a decidedly family affair, with Thomas still doing repairs and sales while his wife Kristy does the books and other behind-the-scenes magic. He gives her huge props for helping the business to thrive.

“We couldn’t run this place without her,” he said. “And I’m training my daughter on repairs. So, it’s a real family kind of thing.”

A special space

Walking through the door is like taking a step into the past at Spaceman Guitars, in the best sort of way. If you’re old enough to remember the a time before the digital revolution, when experts still fixed beautiful objects and you could hold recorded music in your hands as you gazed at amazing cover art, you’ll feel right at home. And chances are, the owner will remember your name by your second visit — a detail that might go unnoticed at a big-box guitar store. A visit to Spaceman may just transport you back to an age when small mom and pop shops like this ruled the suburban landscape and Amazon was a river you studied in geography class. It’s a 13-year old’s dream, a 40-something’s coolest musical memory all rolled into one.

Thomas said that’s by design.

“We kind of have the shop set up like the kind of place we would have wanted to hang out in before, when we were going around to pawn shops and record stores and music stores. They (Rockley) were more rigid in their thinking and didn’t really see the value in consignments and used guitars, and it certainly is messy and discombobulated at times, but it’s fun,” Thomas said. “It’s always changing and you never know what’s gonna be happening in here. Guitar players are really scrounges. They like to dig around and dig through records and dig through boxes of old guitar parts or see old guitars or old amps, so we kind of appeal to that sort of nature that guitar players often have.”

With many business being hit hard by COVID-19, Spaceman has weathered the storm well so far, and Thomas is grateful for the loyalty of the customers he’s built up over the years and the new ones just finding their way to his door. He realizes a move to a new location just months before the pandemic hit could have had far different results.

“We’re super blessed and feel lucky compared to what a lot of people have been going through. We can see our numbers compared to last year and they’re steadily going up every month,” he said. “Covid being an indoor activity kind of thing, everything is booming. We’re selling more records than ever, selling guitars, people are breaking instruments out that haven’t been serviced or played in years and so we’re so unbelievably busy.”

As for the future, Thomas and his family are hoping to add a couple of additional guitar brands to the lines of new instruments he carries, and finish up working on the store so in his words, “it’s really in the groove.”

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