September 2021 - LET US ENTERTAIN YOU: Candyman Strings & Things
By Cheryl Lowe
Music has a way of making us feel seen and heard. It creates a safe space with its sound permeating our eardrums and bathing our souls with a warmth that reminds us of our memories - both painful ones we grew from and the happy ones that we keep delicately like a fragile butterfly in the palms of our weather-worn hands.
Now think about that feeling. Recreate it in an environment that not only welcomes what music creates within us but invites us to stay. Imagine a magical place that is a haven from the outside noise and stress in the world.
That’s The Candyman Strings & Things in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was fortunate to chat with Rand Cook, the co-owner of the store. When I asked Cook about what sets his store apart from others, he quickly and genuinely said, “The people that I get to work with, hands down...I’m the luckiest employer in the world. I have the best people. They are all professionals, skilled musicians, and they have great knowledge. They are friendly. We are lucky because we feel like we are a family here. I feel that we have a strong moral compass to do good in the world, and everybody that works here is one-hundred percent on board with that concept.”
In business since 1969, this store has it all. Opened originally by Matthew Schwartzman, it started as a small acoustic guitar shop. It then grew to two store locations, and after one store had an electrical fire in 1981, The Candyman moved to its current location at 851 St. Michaels Drive. The doors are open to all ages, from beginners to professional musicians. There’s a retail side, as well as a music education center. Rated as the #1 music store nationally by the National Association of Music Merchants, The Candyman Strings & Things offers private and group lessons, workshops, and camps for everyone.
Their two-week-long summer rock camp program is offered for children and is one of the top rock schools in the country. “It’s a very cool program because it exposes kids to the idea of music as a career and gives them an opportunity to see multiple angles to what that career could be. From the performance, engineering, radio, to the marketing end of it,” said Cook. “And so it exposes them to the whole palette. It’s not just being in a rock band. They see an entire palette of opportunities that they could potentially pursue in their lives.”
The Candyman has become a source of strength, inclusiveness, and newfound hobbies for many people in the last year with the COVID pandemic. Even though it was an off-year for the business, customers flocked to the store to invest in learning - both beginning and experienced musicians. “Since people were stuck at home, they were picking up music. 2020 probably had the biggest increase in the music-making population - perhaps in the history of music. [Music] has given them a healthy distraction. It provided healthy ways to keep their minds active and doing positive things. Once we were able to reopen and certainly coming into 2021, we’ve been busy. It’s been insane.”
Notable customers have walked through Candyman's doors and browsed the colorful guitar walls. “I’ve met some pretty cool famous people,” said Cook. “Adam Sandler was in town filming for a couple of months. He would come in and hang out.” Cook continued, "He was in the store, and this mom and her child came in. The boy fell in love with this guitar, and his mother told him that they could not afford it. So they continued to look around, and Adam grabbed that guitar, brought it to the front, paid for it, and said, ‘Make sure that kid gets this guitar on his way out the door,’” said Cook. “Those sorts of things…that’s the magic.”
The Candyman Strings and Things, located at 851 St. Michael's Drive in Santa Fe, is open Monday through Friday 10 AM to 6 PM and on Sundays 12 PM to 5 PM. Visit their website at https://www.candymansf.com/ or take a trip to see the store live and in person when you feel the music calling you!