Best Of The West 2012: F.M. Light & Sons
Iconic signs on Colorado's Route 40 point to a century-old family store that's become a mainstay in Steamboat Springs.
Photography: Matthew Staver
The story of F.M. Light & Sons is, in many ways, the story of the West itself. In 1905, Ohioan Frank Marion Light loaded his wife and seven kids on a train headed for Colorado. Looking for a spot with clean air, Light, who suffered from terrible asthma, settled in Steamboat Springs. He decided to open a “men’s furnishings” store after he determined it to be a viable business.
And viable it was. A century later, the outfitter, specializing in boots and hats, has become a Steamboat mainstay and Western institution. The “& Sons” carries special meaning, as the family continues to pass the reins from generation to generation (they’re up to five). But the family’s most visible legacy may be the yellow-and-black roadside signs that have peppered Route 40 since the 1920s. Back then the road served as the Rocky Mountain version of Route 66; these days it’s more of a local thoroughfare. Yet each generation continues to pass on the summer chore of repainting the remaining 100-odd metal signs by hand.
How does a place keep the doors open for 107 years with such old-fashioned advertising? “It boils down to trust,” says current store manager Del Lockhart, F.M.’s great-grandson. “Our goals remain the same: delivering a quality product at a fair price and backing it up with customer service.”
It’s that last tenet — and the heady aroma of boot leather — that’s at the heart of the F.M. Light & Sons experience. Lockhart says that staff members really take the time, for example, to fit boots correctly. “We’d rather not sell them a pair of boots,” he says, “than have them walk out of here with a pair of boots that don’t fit.”
And once you’re fit with those boots? As one customer put it, “You walk in a man and walk out a cowboy.” www.fmlight.com