Steve’s plea strikes chord in Carbondale |

Steve’s plea strikes chord in Carbondale

Steve Standiford's vintage guitar shop in Carbondale is a popular venue for live music. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Steve Standiford is strumming a happy tune.

So far at least, the future of Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale is looking viable after its proprietor hesitantly put out a plea for support last month.

While Standiford isn’t yet ready to commit to the future of the vintage guitar shop that has become magnet for live music, he concedes community response to his request for assistance bodes well for the popular venue.

“It’s actually been, to my little world, extraordinary,” he said this week. “There’s been a lot of people coming out of the proverbial woodwork to offer things.”

Standiford said he’s received offers from residents who are willing to put up traveling musicians and feed them dinner. Supporters are booking the venue for rehearsals and other functions, patrons are turning out in strong numbers for shows, businesses have stepped up with proposals to underwrite performances and residents have simply put up cash. One volunteer is building a website for Steve’s Guitars and a local liquor store put a “Save Steve’s” tip jar on its counter.

“That one made me a little uncomfortable,” Standiford admitted. “It’s not a fatal disease. It’s just a guitar shop that happens to be a listening room.

“But I took the fifty bucks,” he added.

Standiford wasn’t particularly comfortable when he put out the plea for help last month with his weekly e-mail update on acts scheduled to play in his “listening room.” But escalating rent has made it increasingly difficult to maintain the funky shop that hosts live music by an eclectic assortment of local and traveling acts.

“I was thinking I’d make a decision on the Fourth of July weekend ” whether to re-up my lease,” Standiford said.

Standiford and his wife, Mary Margaret O’Gara, have been offering live music in the Dinkle Building on Fourth Street for more than a decade. At first, the shows were free to anyone who wanted to stop in and listen. Then, they began accepting donations to keep the music coming.

Last month, Standiford booked what he called his first “premium show” ” the Austin-based Asylum Street Spankers packed Steve’s tiny stage for a show he limited to 50 people (well, he tried to limit it to 50) who paid an unprecedented $25 apiece for a seat in the packed front room at Steve’s. It sold out quickly.

“We made as much for the shop as we’ve made in some entire months,” said Standiford, who splits the take at the door with the band.

He envisions future premium shows, along with the uniquely community-oriented programs that have a home in the listening room, like an upcoming poetry reading by local middle-schoolers. But first, Standiford must decide if his labor of love is sustainable in the long term. Certainly, though, the immediate response to his appeal has been encouraging, he said.

“It makes me feel like keeping it open.”

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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