Priced Out of Denver, Music Gear Guys Is Closing Broadway Store

Music Gear Guys will close after being priced out by skyrocketing rent.
Music Gear Guys will close after being priced out by skyrocketing rent. Lila Thulin
“I’ve got you covered. No one else in the city does,” says Gregory Decker from behind the counter of Music Gear Guys, which has sold equipment to musicians on South Broadway for more than a decade. He grabs a Super Fuzz Pedal, a gizmo that will lend an electric guitar a Jimi Hendrix sound, and hands it to a twenty-something musician.

Decker’s got a ready smile, a thin goatee and a teal dragon tattoo that wraps around his upper arm. The art dates back to when he played guitar for the tours of ’80s rock giants like Poison and Mötley Crüe. When it comes to the Super Fuzz Pedal and other guitar gear, he knows what he’s talking about.

Come September, the customer buying the pedal — along with acoustic DR strings, bridge pins and three-for-a-dollar picks — won’t be able to stop by Decker’s place. The store’s owner can’t afford rent in the Baker area anymore and says he’s being priced out.

He describes the closure of Music Gear Guys and other mom-and-pop shops on South Broadway as “the demise of what Broadway was known for — we’re known for quaint.” Until 2016, Broadway hosted the world’s largest model-train store, Caboose Hobbies, which had called the area home since the ’80s. Caboose changed owners and reopened in Lakewood. And after 43 years in business, Famous Pizza will soon stop dishing up New York-style pies at its South Broadway location.

Decker has been involved in the music-equipment industry since he finished his touring days, and he now holds several guitar-equipment patents. One of them is for the Lok-N-Roll, whose name is emblazoned in all caps on his black T-shirt. The Lok-N-Roll is a specialized type of locking nut that improves tuning and evens out tension across a fretboard.

While on South Broadway, Decker’s been surprised by a visit from Glenn Danzig, lead singer for the Misfits. He’s arranged meet-and-greets, private lessons and even dinners with funk guitarist Regi Wooten. Members of Denver hip-hop act the Flobots have stopped in to sign guitars and donate equipment.

“It’s nice that the real Denver community always supports this store,” he says.

Decker acquired the 1,200-square-foot space thirteen years ago. At the time, it was one of several guitar shops on the strip. Now it’s the only store of its kind left standing on this stretch of Broadway — and not for long.

Unsurprisingly, the skyrocketing cost of Denver rent played a role in the shop’s closure. Decker’s landlord, the property management group Hayes and Company (which did not offer a comment when Westword called for this story), plans to renovate the building, and after that, the rent would increase by more than $2,000 a month.

Decker can’t afford to stay and will shutter his store by September 1. He says he doesn’t hold hard feelings toward the management or owner. After all, they’re just doing business, like him.

Instead, he blames the impact that retail marijuana sales have had on Colorado’s economy. Since 2014, he estimates, 60 percent of the people who enter his guitar-lined store have come from out of state, and he’s had to play babysitter to slightly-too-stoned customers more frequently than he would like.

Because out-of-towners don’t want to pay for him to ship their gear back to their home states, they grill him about his products and then fail to buy anything.

“I see them order it right in front of me on their phone” from online retailers like Amazon, Decker says, exasperated.

His bottom line has also been hurt since Broadway bike lanes have cut back parking options. Customers are now more likely to order online or travel a few miles away to the corporate chain Guitar Center, where they can park for free. He thinks the city is trying to boost its environmentally friendly reputation at the expense of its local businesses.

In the long term, Decker says, “the city is killing our city.”

Knowing his shop is about to close, he spends his time between customers scouring Craigslist, looking for a large-scale space to house his next project: a nonprofit co-op with rehearsal space for bands, classrooms where instructors could teach music, an instrument repair center, a room where Craigslist users could swap items without having to go to each other’s homes, and an open room that would allow him to teach students or survivors of domestic violence about his other passion, the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.

Standing in the store he’ll have to vacate, surrounded by vintage music wares like those he’s sold to acts such as Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and legendary blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, Decker has one goal at this point in his career: “I want to give back to the community.”

If you’re interested in providing a building or entering into a co-op, reach out to him by email at [email protected]

Correction August 11, 2017: This story originally reported that International Shotokan Karate Federation would be closing. That business has no plans to do so. We regret the error.

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Lila Thulin recently graduated from Stanford University, where she earned a Human Biology degree with a minor in Creative Writing (she also learned to bike no-handed). She’s an aficionado of libraries, bagels and art in all forms; she covers the latter as a Westword intern.
Contact: Lila Thulin