FM Light & Sons
● By Christina Freeman
Lindsay and Chris Dillenbeck hanging out by an iconic Steamboat landmark. Photo by Suzi Mitchell.
Passing the life-size horse on
Steamboat Springs’ Lincoln Avenue, then turning in through the doors of the
town's oldest store, makes you want to yell yee-haw. Celebrating 110-years, F.M. Light & Sons is an institution, held dear to those who adorn Stetsons, boots and Western wear.
No one feels this landmark's sense of history more than its current owner, Lindsay Lockhart Dillenbeck. In 2012 Lindsay and husband, Chris, took the helm, a decision she says had always been her destiny.
Growing up, the family store triggered a sense of belonging for Lindsay, who, from age 13, would often become tearful at her lack of involvement with the business. Fourth-generation owner Ty Lockhart encouraged his daughter to expand her horizons after graduating from Heritage Christian High School, advice she took to heart. She graduated with a degree in economics from Dartmouth College, starting a commerce career in Boston before moving to Washington, D.C., where she secured a domestic policy research assistant post in Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Lindsay moved cross country to gain a master’s in business from Pepperdine University, Calif. Chris, a Duke University undergraduate, followed her out there to study for his own MBA at UCLA.
With their combined education, the couple could have gone anywhere, but Lockhart Dillenbeck kept her sights set on picking up the reigns at F.M. Light. Today, they center their business on family fundamentals: memory, tradition and experience. “When people come into the store, I want them to have a good time, knowing they can take with them a taste of the West, regardless of their budget.”
Shoppers can expect to find traditional brands such as Levi, Pendleton or third-generation, family-run Rockmount out of Denver. Keeping abreast of evolving trends, British-made Hunter Wellingtons now don the shelves alongside a vast display of cowboy boots, replacing the out-of–favor, full lace-up boot.
As the oldest Stetson dealer west of the Mississippi, the store focuses heavily on headgear. If you have driven to Steamboat from any direction, you will have noticed at least a few of their 100 famed yellow wooden signs. Lockhart Dillenbeck prides herself on the inclusion of $7 straw Stetsons, which fly out the door during summer’s Pro Rodeo Series.
With toe-tapping country music playing in the background, Lockhart Dillenbeck is well aware of the rising popularity of Western wear. “It has become more mainstream, just like music we are listening to,” she says.
What's next for Steamboat's favorite store? Online shopping, which she feels has been long in coming. With regular requests from around the globe, it's only a matter of time before F.M. Light will be expanding its popularity beyond those miles of yellow signs.