Outward appearances often deceive and maybe even disorient. Driving up to the unassuming warehouse in which Love Rocks is located, a visitor searching for an establishment advertised as one of the Mid-Valley’s most-happening cultural hubs would be forgiven for thinking that a wrong turn had been taken somewhere around the FedEx store or the lumber yard.
Love Rocks is found at the terminus of what amounts to a dead-end alley. There is no bright neon sign. It’s a you-either-know-where-it-is-or-you-don’t kind of place. Word of mouth prevails.
Enter the unadorned front door and you step through the looking glass, down the rabbit hole into a near-magical lair of creativity.
Immediately to the right is a round, handmade, high-end bed. There are strategically placed mannequins sporting hip-looking attire bearing the Love Rocks logo. There is a glass coffee table mounted atop a juniper stand. And a mini-living room surrounded by some seriously amazing art. The walls are adorned with guitars.
Off to one side is a stage upon which is placed a full drum set. There is a full dance floor. On the other side of the facility is a state-of-the-art woodshop. There’s a recording studio. There’s a side room that will soon be home to an embroidery operation.
It’s all a bit overwhelming. But, with music blaring, it definitely inclines a visitor toward toe-tapping.
Love Rocks is the brainchild of 30-year Roaring Fork Valley resident Steve Cook, who originally hails from Rockford, Ill.
He came to the Mid-Valley via a bumpy road.
“My parents separated and I got kicked out of Catholic high school and then went to public school with a bunch of gangs and dropped out,” he says in his rapid-fire conversational manner. “My mother moved out here because my cousin owned a hair salon. I had been on my own for a year when I was 15. I lived in a four-bedroom house with my brother and sister, who were 21 and 18. And I didn’t care at the time. It was great, no parents. My dad had moved away and my mom had moved away. They let us use the house. But I wanted to graduate. So I came out here to live with my mom and went to Aspen High School and graduated in ’89.”
Almost every item inside the studio was created by Cook himself.
“I taught myself how to build furniture,” Cook says. “I was in massage and the personal training industry for a couple years and then I built a bed for a girlfriend. Next thing you know, I was working out of my mom’s garage. Eventually, I was like, ‘I need my own space,’ and I needed to get out of my mom’s house, so, when I was 22, I rented a space and put in a studio and a wood shop in Basalt.
“It wasn’t anything too spectacular,” he continues. “Within four years, I had a full-on furniture store and a recording studio that was for my personal use. I got a good rent on this place a few years ago, so I decided to move to open a shop, a showroom and a studio together so I can bring in the community.”
All told, he has been doing specialty construction and custom woodworking for 25 of his 48 years.
Cook has also has an extensive musical background.
“I have been playing drums since I was 3,” he says. “I started playing bass in seventh grade and have been playing guitar since 18. I was always in bands. I also write and produce.”
It only followed that, eventually, Cook would combine his various areas of expertise.
He had long thought about building drum sets.
“I was depressed and bugged out that someone didn’t pay me the last 8,000 bucks for a job,” he remembers. “I had some hard maple baseboard and case left over from a job that I was saving, saying I was going to make drums one day, and finally took ’em off the shelf after three years and made drums.”
His drum sets are unlike any others in the world. (More on that in a moment.)
Next step in the evolutionary process that eventually morphed into Love Rocks was to apply his woodworking skills to the building of electric guitars.
It did not take long for his efforts to bear some significant fruit.
He now counts as clients two of the best-known names in the music industry, though he asks that they not be specifically identified.
“I met [name redacted]’s wife, [name redacted], at his concert in Vegas,” Cook says “She plays drums with [name redacted]. She’s one of the best female drummers in the world. I had seen her in Glenwood for a free concert five years ago with her jazz quintet. It was awesome. And then I saw her three years later in Vegas. When I saw her with her bodyguard at the bar, watching her husband play, I went and approached her. I wanted to tell her how much I respected her. Then I showed her photos of my drums. Mine are the only screwless drum sets in the world. They’re all solid wood and the lugs are doweled to the shell, bypassing 32 screws.
“I wrote my name on a napkin and I didn’t hear from her for eight months and she called me out of the blue and said ‘this is [name redacted], I want one of your drum sets’,” he continues. “I’m like, well, I’m making guitars, too, and she said, ‘Well I’ll buy one for [name redacted] as a wedding present.’ So, I got two of the biggest hitters in the industry that so happen to be married and just so happen to be my first two clients. Because the guitar is a wedding present and is supposed to be surprise, I don’t want the names used.”
The guitar, still being built, lies on a table in Cook’s on-site woodworking shop.
“It’s Baltic maple,” he says. “Neck through body. Fifteen-piece glue-up with pinstriping.”
Cost for the drum set and guitar he is building for the [names redacted]?
“Priceless,” Cook grins.
In case you haven’t yet got it. Cook’s passions are many and varied. Verily, it’s hard to keep up with him as he jumps from one iron in his personal creative fire to another.
It is his goal to bring his disparate passions together in the Love Rocks emporium.
“Now I got woodworkers to musicians to dancers to artists to clothing to jewelry all in one hub and so now I’m able to hold classes here and showcase music,” he says. “I’ve got bachata classes, salsa classes, yoga classes going, then I’ve got other people’s art work, clothing and jewelry in here.
“This space is a prototype to do somewhere else because I’m not in an area zoned for everything I want to do,” he continues. “It’s only for woodworking and a showroom for myself. It can’t be used for retail. I can sell stuff, but it can’t be a retail operation per se. It’s a showroom. My landlord really didn’t want me doing music, but I’m building instruments. I can’t sit there and tell people ‘oh come up to my house after six and come look at my instruments.’ Building the instruments and letting people try them out on stage is part of the woodworking. So, I kind of got that bypassed with him allowing me to do music here.”
Cook considers the entire Love Rocks space to be a living gallery.
While gesturing to his music room, Cook says, “This is a 40-foot stage. I can do video with five cameras and you wouldn’t realize you’re in a warehouse. I’ve got three stripper poles, ’cause my friend teaches pole aerobics and she’s an awesome athlete and dancer and she’s not a stripper. I wanted to incorporate a pole there, a pole there and a pole down the middle, and possibly have three girls dancing with five people playing music behind them.
“Since I have a recording studio, it allows me to showcase my instruments with different people playing ’em,” Cook continues. “People can come in here and play my instruments and get a video to promote them for social media at the same point there’s other drummers that attack the drums and guitars differently than I do, so I want to capture that. Since I need my own recording studio and rehearsal studio, I figured I’d make it a controlled video environment.”
The question that hangs in the air is: What exactly is “Love Rocks’?
“The name kind of came to me as an epiphany in the middle of the night,” Cook says. “It’s about me being passionate about everything I do. I wanted to have the business personality be rock and roll because you’ve got people who are athletes, people who are artists, people on job sites, everybody is considered a rock star if they are doing well or something bad ass. To have that persona with the company and based around rock and roll is big.
“I chose the words ‘Love rocks’ because it’s a tagline to everything,” he continues. “Love rocks my yoga, love rocks Chicago, love rocks Denver, love rocks Aspen High School Ski Club. The word itself makes people think. And it’s a force multiplier because it’s a statement. People won’t realize it’s a furniture store or a music store or all this bad-ass clothing and jewelry and lifestyle products, they’re going to get two meanings off the word because people are going to end up saying ‘Love rocks’ and go check it out.”
Cook wants both Love Rocks and himself to be a wide-ranging brand.
“I’m kinda looking at it like a New Age Ralph Lauren, but rock-and-roll style,” he says. “’Cause I’m doing instruments for celebrity musicians. And I got bad-ass furniture and jewelry and clothing, and nobody else has done it.”
The main is issue at this point comes from the Love Rocks space itself.
Even though Cook continues to hone both the interior design and his offerings, he clearly needs more acreage, and he clearly needs to be in a place that’s more zoning friendly, a place where he can hold private gatherings without running afoul of his landlord’s restrictions and the Basalt powers that be.
“I need about 5 to 6,000 square feet to do what I want to do,” Cook says. “Right now, I have about 3,500. I have to move to downtown Basalt or Willits soon, but the whole idea was to make the idea tangible so I can put a business package together and get investors. I’ve already put 300 grand in here. I’ve recycled $70,000 worth of product. I put $70,000 in. I did about $150,000 worth of labor.
“Everything — the doorways, the stage, the booths, the vinyl flooring — I can roll up and take with me,” he continues. “In a matter of two weeks, I can empty this place out. I want to do this with a light food and beverage license, offering gourmet pizza with wine and beer. I need to have people walking in for pizza, wine or beer or walking in for shopping, for music or furniture or clothing or taking a yoga class. They’re all going to end up consuming a little bit of everything in here, whether it’s a T-shirt, a piece of jewelry, a piece of furniture or just taking a yoga class. I want to be like Steve’s Guitars, but on steroids, where I can have a DJ showcase music. I need to be able to legally host events. This is the prototype, but I need to be somewhere else to take it to the next level.”
Cook understands that people may perceive that he is spreading himself a bit thin on both the practical and conceptual fronts.
“I know I’m spreading myself too thin, but it’s everything that I’m passionate about,” he says. “The woodworking combines the music with furniture making. Taking on clothing is the same thing — you have to develop the idea and a lot of the clothing is already made, it’s just adding appliques to it. Like screen-printing or embroidery. Then I’d like to get into some yoga pants for men. This is all with the intent of having a seamstress be a part of the team. I want musicians to be part of the musical factory end of it. A guitar player doing electronics and setting the guitars up. I want partners, people invested with me. But I can’t do everything by myself.
“The whole idea of putting this together was to help other people be successful, and to build a team, Cook continues.” “Love Rocks is about relationships. I can’t possibly do everything. But, I can do a little bit of everything.”
While continuing the process of creation, Cook is also focusing on the future of his business.
“I’m working on the business plan,” he says. “I have the photos. I have video of the space. I have a video of 50 people in here dancing salsa. I got yoga videos. Now it’s putting it together in a package and saying this is what we’re doing here, this is what we have here, this is what we’re all about.
“I’d like to move to a bigger, more visible space in the next six months to a year,” Cook says. “I would really love to have the Habitat for Humanity building in downtown Basalt. A lot of people want me there because of what I’m creating. I would definitely create some vitality.”
For more information on Love Rocks, go to http://www.loverocksusa.com/