DENVER — One of the oldest Denver businesses on Broadway is closing. It's not what the owners wanted, but they are determined to go out on a high note.
Kolacny Music Company was started in 1930 and has always been a family business. They sell and repair instruments, while also offering student rentals.
“My grandfather, my grandmother, they started this business. They worked themselves to death," said David Kolacny, who is one of only dozens of people in the world who works as a harp technician. “It's really two kinds of brains— it's you see one and you want to take it apart, or you see one and you want to play it. You've got to be able to put it back together. It's not very good business if you just take them apart.”
David and his wife Debra have poured their heart and soul into the business, and love their employees like family.
"We have very little turnover. I've got an employee that's been here for over 30 years," David said.
The Kolacnys said they have had 93 years of fun at the shop, and always wanted to make it to a century in business.
“Probably one of the hardest parts is just that I kind of had that dream. And that's just not gonna happen," David said with a sigh.
“It’s going to be OK. So, yeah, we're going to be fine," Debra said, patting David on the knee.
The two are being forced to close their doors.
“None of this has ever been about getting rich for us," Debra explained. “We all had jobs, we can all pay our bills at home, we can all eat, paid our employees well, and we took care of them, had insurance, and all that stuff for them.”
However, the Kolacnys said the last decade has been a constant decline, and the pandemic sent them into substantial debt as they tried to keep paying all of their employees and sustain the business.
"Our accountant said, you know, 'You've got this one particular bill that you're never going to make enough money to pay off. And it's secured by your houses. So if you lose this, you're not only going to lose the business, you're going to lose your houses,'” David said.
The pandemic brought more than the complications normally considered to the business. The decline of school music programs has slowly been creeping up on the company, and when the programs were halted during the pandemic, it really impacted Kolacny Music Company.
“Musical instrument manufacturers have quotas that you have to meet. If you bought so much last year, you have to buy 10% more next year. And so those bills just keep getting bigger. At the same time, the programs are getting smaller. And all of those things in combination have just worked against us," Debra explained.
David said the COVID-19 pandemic also meant less students were involved in school music programs.
“The bands are going to be smaller because of that. So eventually, that will recover, but you've got to ride that out, and we just don't have the energy or the money or the cash to try to roll that ball back up the hill again," David said.
The Kolacnys were grateful for the buyer who came when they needed one most.
“We're working to get everything cleared out and sold off. We're doing great discounts on stuff," Debra said.
"Our old time customers are coming in in droves. We have people standing here crying every day," David said about the closure.
They are aiming to officially close their doors on Sept. 30. All of their employees have decided to stick with the business until it's closed, even though the owners said they would understand if they needed to seek other work.
David and Debra will not be retiring — instead David will continue to conduct harp repairs out of their home.
“I can't not take care of their instruments. You know, I've got to continue to do repairs, and I need the money. So it's a perfect match," he said.
The two are very busy clearing out the shop by the end of September, but they both know their last day will be far from a celebration.
"We’ll both cry. We'll probably all cry," Debra said.
However, the decades of work the family has invested in the shop is something to celebrate.
“Maybe a toast," said Debra, considering how they will spend their last moments in the store. "We'll get some nice Irish whiskey. Have a little toast."