JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
John Fowler knew exactly where he was when he decided to open Shoreline Music in the Animas Valley.
If the name sounds more apt to a business on a Southern California boardwalk, it’s because that’s where the first Shoreline popped up 16 years ago in San Diego. More significantly for its legacy, Shoreline was the world’s first online outlet for high-end acoustic musical instruments. Fowler bought the store from founder Chuck Bloom in 2001, and soon after he relocated to Durango.
“Back then, he was the only guy for years – I mean who would buy an instrument sight unseen?” Fowler said this week preparing for Saturday’s grand opening of a new Shoreline store – a real store.
Fowler briefly opened a store in the space now occupied by Poppy’s on Fifth Street, but the combination of primarily online sales and the presence of Canyon Music Woodworks made the physical location redundant. But after Canyon Music closed its doors for good in December, Fowler saw a void and is filling it.
“After Canyon closed, I felt it was time to reopen because there are a lot of musicians around here who play some high-profile instruments,” Fowler said.
Mark Epstein is one of them. A founding member of Badly Bent, Epstein’s latest project, Wild Mountain, will play at Saturday’s opening party. Epstein was once a co-owner of Canyon Music Woodworks. He said he’s sad to see it go. He’s just as happy to see his friend do something about it.
“It really did leave a void in terms of high-end acoustic instruments and touring equipment,” Epstein said. “Most of John’s business is online and will continue to be so, but it’s wonderful to have this resource for acoustic musicians. I just hope the music community supports him.”
Shoreline is a specialty store. Fowler said it’s complementary to, and not in competition with, the long-established Katzin Music. But where Katzin is a one-stop shop for everything musical – from brass to strings to woodwinds to pianos and lessons – Shoreline offers top-of-the-line guitars and basses. Fowler sells guitars made by hand in Ireland by Dermott McIlroy, Northwood Guitars from Canada, English Brook guitars and Bee Basses.
“He can concentrate his efforts on what he does,” Epstein said. “I believe that to be really successful, you should pick the smallest thing you can and be the best at it. I’ve always admired John’s focus.”
New to Fowler’s inventory are Xylem Guitars, made just a mile or so away in Animas Valley by 28-year old Durango native Anthony Olinger. Olinger’s success story is its own narrative, and the relative newcomer already has a waiting list until April to get one of his handmade basses or guitars. He sells at big-time outlets like the Chicago Music Exchange and Rudy’s Music in New York City’s Soho neighborhood, but he’s happy to have a local outlet as well, even if stocking Fowler with instruments will be a challenge.
“I am looking forward to having some in John’s store because it’ll be nice to have some local recognition – I don’t think anyone around here knows what I do. But I kind of hope they don’t sell too fast, either,” Olinger said.
Shoreline is as much a showroom as it is an actual outlet, and Fowler guesses that his online sales will continue to subsidize the physical location. But it is the only place for hundreds, if not thousands of miles, to find Taylor, Renaissance, Louden or Tom Anderson guitars. And Fowler’s not finished gathering inventory by a long shot.
“We’ve gone onward and upward again, and I’m always on the lookout for young up-and-coming guys who aren’t charging an arm and a leg,” he said.