From a basement business to a booming instrument repair and rental shop, Sol Vista Violins has grown to become a cherished treasure within Old Town Lafayette.
Founder and shop owner, James Connell, first started his business from the basement of his Louisville home, working for school districts within Boulder County. His passion for music and string instruments comes from his study of composition and guitar at Arizona State University. Although guitar was his first learned instrument, he found himself falling in love with the orchestral side of music, which ultimately lead him to violins.
“There was a violin shop right off campus, so I walked in and met the owner, and asked him if he was hiring. He said no, but for six months I bothered him, asking if he was hiring, until he finally said ‘fine, you start tomorrow.’ Even though it was my 22nd birthday that day, I just started working there on my birthday,” said James.
James worked at that same shop for seven years. The owner of that business trained him on how to clean and repair instruments, which helped give James the foundation he needed to eventually start his own business.
After several years of bouncing between shops in Seattle, Denver, and Boulder, James finally opened Sol Vista Violins in Old Town Lafayette in 2008. The shop was originally located across the street from its current location but moved to 103 N. Public Rd, located next to Stam Chocolate and Teocalli Cocina, a year ago.
“This is where I want to stay; I love this building and this location. It used to be an old bank from the 1920s. The original floors and ceilings are still here. The bank vault is even still here, so it’s a really fun place,” said James. “This move has been a huge game changer for us. We have more foot traffic, business, and phone calls. After stopping by to get some violin work done, customers will head to the chocolate shop or grab food from Teocalli, and I am now friends with those business owners. That is what I love about Lafayette.”
Old Town welcomed James and his business with open arms. As soon as he arrived in Lafayette, he knew this was the place for him. Working in Seattle, he found himself missing that true customer connection. James shared that working on instruments is a very personal experience. In some cases, the instruments he works on have been in the customer’s family for centuries, so getting to know the customer and putting their needs first was exactly how James wanted to run his business.
Outside of working with families and their instruments, James is still dedicated to working with students and school districts across Denver, Boulder, and beyond.
“We work with seven school districts now. We travel and help the schools pick things up when they need help. We repair the school’s instruments. Without the work I have done and the shop has done for the schools, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said James.
Once business started taking off at Sol Vista Violins, James hired his friend Kevin to take over helping the school districts with their repairs. The Sol Vista team now consists of James, his wife Joy, Kevin, and Emily, who is married to Kevin. Together, they make a talented team of luthiers and woodworkers. The family dynamic of the Sol Vista Violins team makes their dedication to treating their customers like family and friends even stronger.
Sol Vista Violins plans to have a Spring Sale this year that will become an annual event to bring in new customers and add excitement to their store. Although Sol Vista does not participate in traditional marketing tactics, knowledge of their one-of-a-kind client experience and phenomenal deals, even when compared to large music stores, has spread fast among the community, and beyond.
After 34 years of experience in the violin business, James is clearly passionate about his craft and his clients. He shared many stories from his past, including some of his favorite, funny customer stories:
“I once found a dust ball the size of a softball inside a German bass from the 1800s. Definitely Guinness Book of World Records stuff.”
“A woman found a violin in a dumpster and brought it in for evaluation. It turned out to be a fine violin by a famous French maker worth $15,000. You just never know what you are going to find!”
If you want to learn more about James, his team, and his business, head over to Sol Vista Violin’s website. We recommend you read some of the customer testimonials. They will give you a real glimpse into the passion and care Sol Vista shows its customers.