Standing up for his principles
Steamboat Springs — F.M. Light and Sons smells of boot leather and Stetson hats stack the shelves, but the most memorable thing about the store is probably not inside it.
What attracts many people to the store are the close to 90 yellow signs scattered throughout Northwest Colorado that entice travelers for miles around to stop at F.M. Light.
The store opened in 1905 and the signs went up in the 1930s, but it was Ty Lockhart’s fight in the 1970s that kept the signs along the highways and people coming into the Western store on Lincoln Avenue.
Lockhart is F.M. Light’s great-grandson and owns the almost century old story today.
About the time Lockhart returned from the East to help mange the store, which was owned by his father, the state put in place a highway beautification program.
The state had targeted F.M. Light and its 260 signs in a 150-mile radius as a way to clean up the highway.
With the help of Steamboat attorney Tom Sharp, Lockhart fought the state’s action.
Much like today, Sharp said the signs not only had people stopping at the store, but once they got out of their cars they walked up and down the streets.
“Everyone in the downtown really liked them,” Sharp said.
First, the state agreed to pay for the signs to be taken down and then they reached an agreement where the store would take the signs down over a long period of time.
But if the state granted any concession to other sign owners, then F.M. Light could stop taking down its signs.
That agreement worked. Over time the program died and about a third of the signs remain, a visible reminder of Steamboat’s Western heritage.
The signs might be what stand out most about F.M. Light, but its owner has had a hand in many other Steamboat ventures.
The former chamber president played an instrumental role in building the Christian Heritage School.
He developed the Clock Tower Building in Ski Time Square and coached a girls youth soccer team for years.
“I would just say he is a first class guy,” Sharp said.
“He is very honest and candid and has very, very strong values that he believes.”
Sharp has known Lockhart for close to 30 years. They attend the same church, have family dinners and play poker together.
“He is a good businessman and shrewd poker player,” Sharp said.
Lockhart was born and raised in Steamboat at a time when there were about 2,000 people.
It was a place where you knew everybody and everybody knew you, Lockhart said.
“If you did something good or bad, your folks would know about it before you got home,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart’s mother is Annabeth Light, the granddaughter of F.M. Light.
In the 1950s, Lockhart’s father, Lloyd Lockhart, started working at the store and bought it from Annabeth’s father in the 1960s.
Like most kids at that time, Lockhart was immersed in sports growing up. He played football, wrestled, skied and ran track.
In the summers, he worked the hayfields with his uncle, Jim Temple, founder of the Steamboat Ski Area. When Lockhart was 11 or 12, he worked with Temple to survey the mountain to decide where the runs should go.
When he got older, Lockhart worked at the gas station in town under Jim “Moose” Barrows, years before Barrows went to the Olympics.
Lockhart went to school at the University of Colorado opting for a degree in aerospace engineering over the “easier” business classes.
For two years, he worked at an aircraft engineering company in Hartford, Conn. before deciding to move back to Steamboat and work at F.M. Light and Sons.
“I wanted to make sure before I came back to Steamboat that I did something else, somewhere else,” Lockhart said.
It was at F.M. Light that Lockhart made what would turn out to be the best hire of his life.
The store hired Betty, a ski bum from California, for a part-time job.
It turned out that Betty was a schoolteacher and was able to convince Lockhart to wear his first pair of shorts and sandals.
The two eventually married and have two children, Brandon, 26, and Lindsay, 21.
Betty said the family likes to travel and has been to Australia, Central America and China.
Coming from California, Betty said the children have an equal appreciation for the ocean and mountains and even in their 20s the children still enjoy the family vacation.
When the family is in the ocean, Betty said she and the children are sure to stand equidistant away from Lockhart, who is notorious for seizing opportunities to dunk them.
When describing Lockhart, Betty uses the word integrity, but said he also has a sense of humor.
“Ty has got such a dry sense of humor. He still sometimes catches me after all these years,” Betty said.
The Lockharts have been key supporters of the Christian Heritage School. They were among a group of parents who started the school 16 years ago when it housed just two or three students.
Lockhart said the couple tried to work with the public school system for a few years, but said the system was very hard to affect.
He also wanted his children to be taught with Christian values.
Lockhart’s biggest contribution to the school came a few years ago when he donated land for the new Christian Heritage School west of town.
He developed the neighboring Heritage Park subdivision with the profits going toward the building of the school.
The kindergarten through 12th grade school now has 125 students.
“He believes very strongly in Christian education,” Betty said.
The school also has two soccer fields, which are leased to the city for $1 per year.
Lockhart has been an active supporter of Steamboat’s youth soccer program.
Although Lockhart never played soccer growing up, he was a youth soccer coach for 16 years.
“It was sort of like ‘I have never played it, I can’t run, I can’t kick, but I’ll tell you how to play,'” Lockhart said.
He learned the game by asking local soccer players about problems he did not know how to solve.
And, Lockhart said he had a good role model for a coach, Carl Ramona. As a high school wrestler who went to the state tournament, Lockhart had the chance to wrestle under the legendary high school coach.
Besides helping build the school and coaching soccer, Lockhart served as president for the chamber, helped start the Rotary Club and serves on the board of the Steamboat Springs Evangelical Free Church.
“My motivation to serve is more of a desire to get things done,” he said.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Jay Hirschfeld and his business partner chef Jessi Watson are hoping the Yampa Valley Ice Cream Co. can add some new flavor to downtown Steamboat Springs with a new craft ice cream retail location.