This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Park City • If you're looking for good vibrations, a cup of mud and face-time with this town's "old hippie" mayor, this is the place for you.
Riffs Acoustic Music is a combination coffeehouse, guitar shop and performance venue. Customers can take lessons, too: guitar, mandolin and voice.
Riffs is a new venture by Park City Mayor Dana Williams, a former real estate agent, and Larry Hart, a former insurance executive. Hart, 60, is the owner and Williams, 55, is the "sweat-equity partner."
"After 35 years [in the insurance business], I decided to retire and I was talking to Dana and this thing just morphed," Hart said.
The mayor will whip up an espresso for you while he serenades with "Friend of the Devil" by the Grateful Dead. It's no joke. Williams is, among other things, the frontman for the Motherlode Canyon Band, a Park City mainstay.
"If someone wants a latte, I can make it," Williams said. "And if someone wants to look at a guitar, I can do that, too."
The idea for Riffs came as a takeoff on a famous West Coast haunt.
"We were both California kids," said Williams. "And there was this place, McCabe's, in Santa Monica, where they gave music lessons and you could go down and see guys like Doc and Merle Watson perform live."
Riffs is complete with sound-proof lesson rooms, a performance area that can seat about 40, and a coffee bar, of course, with baked goods from Windy Ridge restaurant. And the walls of the storefront are lined with beautiful guitars that range from $350 to $3,500. They carry Seagull, Rodin, Martin, Taylor and Santa Cruz lines.
You can even score used six-strings, starting at about $200. And if you want to sell your vintage Martin, Riffs will take it on consignment.
For Williams, this is just the latest makeover in a lifetime of them. He and his brother, Evan, owned and operated Ryan's saloon in Park City in the late '70s and early '80s. A graduate of California Polytechnic University, the mayor farmed around Hoytsville for a decade. He was even named Summit County Farmer of the Year in 1986.
Asked about the "old hippie" label, the mayor retorted: "I was an active participant in the counterculture. Maybe that sounds better."
Williams co-founded the green group Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth in the Park City in 1995. He was elected mayor in 2001. But in Park City, that's a part-time gig. In the meantime, he worked his way up the real-estate ladder and became broker at Coldwell Banker in Park City before the bottom dropped out of the market.
Last year, to the surprise of some, Williams became a barista at Park City Coffee Roaster.
"I was washing the windows one day at the Coffee Roaster and a woman came in and said, 'It isn't right. A mayor should not wash windows.' I said, no, every mayor should have to wash windows," Williams said with a chuckle.
The mayor is a big draw for the new shop, Hart said. "People like to come in and complain about road construction and chat about all kinds of things and he never gets tired of it."
People, like 45-year-old Ed Shirey, come in for coffee and lessons. Shirey is a self-taught guitar player who finally is getting around to lessons from an accomplished teacher.
"I was cleaning out the garage and I told my wife I don't want any more material possessions," Shirey said. "So she got me guitar lessons."
Riffs employs eight instructors.
Colin Steele, 11, just wanted to learn some rock and roll licks.
"I wanted someone who knew some songs by Bon Jovi," he said. "We were looking around and found this place."
For Hart, the new gig is a chance to reconnect with music (he plays guitar) and to create a community-gathering place. And it's a hangout where novices can perform before small, friendly audiences.
"We want to make people feel good about being here."
Riffs Acoustic Music
This combo coffee/music shop is at 1205 Iron Horse Drive, Park City. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at riffspc.com.