January 12 CC Eron Johnson

by Rodger Hara

In an essay, Unitarian Minister turned author/essayist Robert Fulghum described an Aha! lesson he learned from an Auschwitz survivor about the distinction between a problem and an inconvenience. Denver antique dealer, Celtic music supporter and session fiddler Eron Johnson could just as easily be the purveyor of that particular lesson – and teach the rest of us about getting out of our own way and growing as much as we can.

Growing up as an adopted child in Wheat Ridge, he acquired a strong work ethic from his Dad, who was Director of Parks Planning for the City and County of Denver (and is responsible for the creation of the Cherry Creek bike path and the Four Mile House Park) and also learned how to use and care for tools. The focus, drive and energy that mark everything Eron does today was manifested when he was fifteen years old and began frequenting a craft store across the street from Wheat Ridge High School. Bill Snyder, the first of Eron’s many mentors after his Dad, taught him how to work with a soldering iron in making stained glass artwork, among other things. From there, Eron taught himself how to repair stained glass windows, a pursuit that led him to another mentor, Mickey Zeppelin, a real estate developer (the Taxi Project in the RINO neighborhood north of Coors Field among other properties) who bought some restored stained glass windows from Eron and taught him about real estate.

During high school, Eron ran a small business buying windows, mantles and other structural items from contractors doing demolition or renovation of older homes in Denver, repairing or refinishing them and then selling them to people like Mickey. After high school, his entrepreneurial spirit and thirst for new experiences and adventure took him on the road where he traveled across the country buying and selling antiques out of the trunk of his car during the 70’s and 80’s.

Returning to Denver and using the lessons he learned from Mickey, began buying houses and other buildings, repairing them while living in them and then selling them, culminating in the store he now has at 451 Broadway – that was originally the home of Ventnor Chevrolet in 1917 – and a 50,000 square foot warehouse and lot near South Lipan St. and Alameda In his store and warehouse, he has antiques that range from pieces of small jewelry to a $75,000 crystal chandelier to 16 foot high stone columns with fluted capitals. And in that warehouse, he hosts Celtic music sessions and what, in other circumstances, would be called “House Concerts” by local and visiting musicians attended by hundreds of fans over the years.

The music happens there because one day about seven years ago, he accompanied a friend to the Sunday evening session at Conor O’Neill’s in Boulder and was immediately intrigued by the music, the people and the feeling of comfortable community among the people there. He became interested in the fiddle, bought one (he now owns 9 of them) and began teaching himself to play by ear. Now this is where the problem/inconvenience challenge comes in, because Eron contracted whooping cough as an adult and lost most of his hearing and wears hearing aids; what to most of us would be a barrier, to Eron is an interesting challenge to be met and overcome. Working with Jesse Burns (who is now fiddler for Gaelic Storm) and other local fiddlers to improve his technique, Eron now attends several sessions each week while continuing to work 6 or 7 days on his antique business.

That love of music has led him to open his warehouse for performances by musicians like Mason Brown, Doug Goodland, Connie Dover, Paddy O’Brien with Tom Dahill, Oisin MacDirmada and Brian Cunningham, Irish fiddler Kevin Burke, Scottish fiddlers Catherine Fraser and Duncan Smith, award winning guitarist Tony McManus, Performance Poetry by Neil McCarthy and many others.

Ever curious and in continuous search of growth, he takes classes in furniture making, glass-blowing, jewelry crafting, photography and pottery so he can learn how things are made in order to be a better buyer of the antiques he buys on his travels around the world. His work in the pottery class has led to the sale of a piece to the Vance Kirkland Museum.

He will keep supporting musicians and furniture people and others who have something special to contribute to making the world a better place because he finds it so satisfying to be able to share life and art and music with others. He said that “Music brings people together and gives them a common bond. Singers and songwriters are tied to their times and their influences and their music tells stories that form that bond.”

While he is not sure what will come next for him, he is certain that it will be something new and different and that he will continue to mentor others as much as he can. In voicing what seems to be a description of how he’s lived in his life, he said “It’s never too late to learn something new. Just do it. Quit talking about it and do it.”

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