There are Spokane institutions, and then there's Hoffman Music.
Riverfront Park? Hoffman has been around more than twice as long. The Davenport Hotel? Hoffman opened one year earlier than the city's most historic lodging spot.
If the Inlander had been around since Hoffman Music's 1913 founding, it's a safe bet the treasure of a music store would've taken home 100+ Best Of awards.
On a surface level, it's easy to see why. Whether you're a professional musician or a weekend hobbyist, wandering into Hoffman's North Monroe HQ is enough to transport anyone into a state of musical bliss. From the rainbow arrays of electric guitars, the walls of horns and string instruments, or even the deeper-cut musical creation tools (accordions and steel drums, anyone?), you're bound to find something to spark a creative impulse.
But Hoffman's lifeblood runs deeper than what's instantly visible. This place has institutional knowledge that can't be topped. Just ask Earl Smith.
Smith has been Hoffman's president for about 15 years, which would be impressive enough before you found out his real tenure at the store. Smith started working at Hoffman when he was in high school... in 1950.
When asked why people love Hoffman so much, Smith keeps it simple.
"Well, we're a complete music store," he says. "We have a complete repair facility for virtually all instruments. We carry just about anything you can think of that has to do with musical instruments and accessories. We have facilities for teaching lessons. Most of the people who work here play instruments, and are very proficient on them. And, of course, we've been here for a long, long time."
During that long, long time, Smith has seen music evolve and the store continually adapt as a result. It's wild to fathom, but Smith's tenure at Hoffman doesn't only predate rap and EDM, it predates rock music.
"We try to be on the cutting edge," Smith says. "Going through the rock and roll years... it gave us a good shot in the arm when rock and roll became so popular. Many, many people formed their own rock bands, and they required lots of instruments, and they bought everything you can imagine."
A trumpet player himself, Smith has a soft spot for the band instrument era, and catering to local schools' band and orchestra students remains a key component for Hoffman. The store is always working with local school band directors to make sure students can love learning music.
And while that scholastic niche took a hit during the pandemic due to music programs being paused, Hoffman was able to maintain due to flourishing sales for guitars, as well as drums and keyboards. (They also took time during shutdown to remodel and rearrange.)
Hoffman Music is well over 100 years old, but it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
2nd PLACE: Mark's Guitar Shop
3rd PLACE: Amend Music Center
NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: Burt's Music and Sound, Coeur d'Alene