If you've visited The Candyman Strings and Things at any point during the past 15 years, you've probably been helped by Sam Atkinson. A longtime New Mexico musician who has worked at everyone's favorite music store since Allegro Music closed in 2003, Atkinson is leaving town to join his family in Sacramento, California, where his teenage son is gearing up for vocational courses. It's the end of an era, and we wanted to chat with Atkinson before his last day on Saturday Sept. 1.
How are you feeling? And not just about leaving the job, but leaving town and in general?
I love Santa Fe. It's always where I've considered to be home. I've spent the majority of my life here. At the very beginning I was super conflicted because I know there's nobody who'll be able to do everything I can do, but I also miss my family. We made a deal to do everything in life together.
What would you say you've learned over the years working in a music store?
People are people and everybody's got a different quirk. What I've mostly learned is that talent has never been this town's problem. The talented come through every day. When people complain about the music scene, it's mostly because organizing that talent for the scene, that kind of thing has gone downhill since I've been here and it's hard for musicians to navigate that crazy conundrum. That and how to be a good detective—how to find out what's wrong with an instrument, how to solve someone's problem of getting recorded, getting their amp working right.
What do you think you'll miss the most?
The community of Santa Fe that I've been part of for the last 20 years is going to be hard to be without. I've spent so much time knowing that if I want the best breakfast burrito, I go to Tia Sophia's; if I want the best roofer, I go to McPartlon Roofing. Most of my connections I made through the store. We see a handful of professionals all the time, but most of the people who come in are the roofers, the lawyers, the doctors. The family vibe that goes down here with [Candyman owners] Rand and Cindy Cook—being part of that community is going to be a hard thing to miss. Or when a little girl comes in with her broken clarinet and you fix it, she comes back a few weeks later and is so happy—those kinds of things are indescribable in terms of how much they mean.