Back in 1905 Steamboat Springs was an isolated, sparsely populated frontier town, home to miners, nearby ranchers and farmers. Frank Light noticed that there was no men’s clothing store. Women made their own clothes but men needed durable trousers, shirts, socks and shoes catering to their demanding work. Frank bought a lot on Lincoln Street, the main thoroughfare, and, planning to work with his two sons, Olin and Clarence, built F.M. Light & Sons.
Frank and his sons were innovative. During the great depression Frank Light lost all his money when the 1st National Bank in Steamboat locked its doors. To supplement the store’s balance sheet the two sons outfitted an automobile with racks and drawers and drove to the workers, farmers and ranchers to show them their wares. They became frequently friends with their farm and ranch customers, and would be invited to stay overnight at their homes. Olin and Clarence had one solid rule: they insisted upon paying for their room and board. These stays enabled them also to perceive better their customers’ needs. They traveled as far north as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, west to the Utah border and south to Aspen, a prosperous mining town.
Much has changed since the Lights first came by stagecoach to this small town. However, the store still uses most of the cases and fixtures that came with the family in the stagecoach, and outfits its customers, today both men and women, with the same classic cowboy clothing. Stetson hats, flannel shirts, jeans and boots, Navajo blankets are staples at this store. Lindsay Lockhart Dillenbeck, 5th generation of the original Light family, manages the family enterprise with her husband. Her great, great, grandfather would be proud of her and her husband. Lindsay encouraged the family enterprise to invest additionally in two women stores on the same block, Moose Mountain Trading Company and Chrysalis. Instead of taking an elevator in a department store to see a different selection of clothes, you walk within spitting distance on the same street from store to store. Chrysalis offers hip and trendy up to minute fashion and Moose Mountain Trading Company presents clothing with a quality classic taste, including a twist of the latest trend.
Lindsay realizes while their original store caters to those who want the classical western wear, there are women who want a forward trendy chic that can be worn on cruises, a visit to the city or a trip abroad. Nevertheless, Lindsay likes to keep in true family tradition the western look. Their buyer does not necessarily go the New York City Fashion Week but rather to the Las Vegas fashion expos featuring western styles. Lindsay sums it up, “That way when the East Coast people come to vacation here they can see true western styles in all our stores.”
Edith Lynn Beer is a seasoned journalist who covers news in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.