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click to enlarge NOEL BLACK

Before you go to the bigger, newer, corporate Wal-Mart of music stores to buy a guitar, amp or just a set of strings, you might want to check out Music Exchange at the corner of Pikes Peak and Weber downtown and introduce yourself to Russell "Russ" Spaeth. Spaeth has worked at Music Exchange since 1985, and has owned it since 1991. He is known in the local music community for bending over backwards to help fellow musicians and loyal customers.

Spaeth's dedication has also earned Music Exchange a respected place in the hallowed world of guitar retail. After he transformed the business from a small, used guitar store into a new and used retail outlet and repair shop, he was offered dealership status from Fender, Gibson and Paul Reed Smith. "It's something that's offered to you," said Spaeth, "not bought."

His reputation has since spread nationally and Music Exchange has sold guitars to everyone from Los Lobos and Amy Grant to White Zombie and Lenny Kravitz.

Spaeth's greatest satisfaction, he said, is seeing the people who took the bus downtown to buy their first guitar when they were kids come in as adults and accomplished musicians.

His fondest memory, he said, is "jamming with Cesar and David from Los Lobos in the store until 4 a.m."

With Guitar Center's recent opening in Colorado Springs, Spaeth acknowledges that the "pie's getting cut into smaller pieces." But the fact Music Exchange services guitars in-store, and that his staff are all local musicians and have worked there for eight years or more, will, Spaeth believes, continue to set them apart from the competition.

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