You can't really talk about guitar building in this town without mentioning Scott Baxendale. About a year and a half ago, one of the area's most respected luthiers picked up stakes and moved to Athens, Georgia -- home of the Drive-By Truckers, an act that holds him in such high esteem for the guitars he crafted for them that they not only routinely thank him in the liner notes of their records, but they also wrote a song about him ("Checkout Time in Vegas") -- leaving a guitar-shaped hole in the hearts of musicians in Denver.
Baxendale left his Colfax Guitar Shop in great hands -- namely, those of Dave Dougherty, a fellow luthier from Philadelphia, who now runs the shop with Christian Phillips, a craftsman who apprenticed under Baxendale. Dougherty moved to Denver about a year and a half ago from Estes Park, where he had set up shop after moving from Philly. He says he had no plans to buy the shop initially, but he's glad that he did. And while he still does custom builds, Dougherty focuses mostly on repairs at the Colfax Guitar Shop these days.
Fortunately, for those looking specifically for custom work, not too long before Baxendale pointed his ship toward the Atlantic, another talented, aspiring local luthier emerged to later help fill the void. In April 2009, shortly after finishing his studies at Roberto-Venn (the same school where Dougherty studied), Justin Hackl, a longtime and well-regarded member of the scene in bands like Qualm, Cost of Living, the Blackout Pact and Trees, most recently, launched Hackl Custom Guitars at 4311 Race Street, and he's been building guitars like crazy in the space ever since (see some of his handy work below).
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This August, he's moving his baby into a new space: in his back yard, at 3139 Milwaukee. When we caught up with Hackl yesterday, he was learning firsthand what is meant by the term "sweat equity," as he was digging trenches for the shop's wiring. He stopped the auger just long enough to take a few pics of the progress for us.