Sitting outside a Steamboat coffee shop with Matt Johnson, owner of Lyon’s Drug, it quickly becomes obvious that he’s well-known and loved in this town. Our conversation is frequently interrupted by passersby who greet Matt, inquire about him and his family, or pause to share a quick anecdote. It’s a striking demonstration of Matt’s personal core belief – that kindness and generosity build culture and that the only thing that separates a generic town from a thriving community is culture.
When Matt took over Lyon’s Corner Drug in 2019, he knew it presented a unique opportunity. Lyon’s is one of the oldest pharmacies in the state and unlike most, still offers a soda fountain, greeting cards, candles and other gift items. But most importantly for Matt, owning Lyons meant he could continue to serve people as a pharmacist and help to build community at the same time. Matt is a second generation pharmacist, following his father into the profession. He likes to say he’s a copycat, but thankfully he’s also following his father’s footsteps in becoming a community leader through his position as the town pharmacist.
Matt and his wife Kelly discovered Steamboat by accident in the summer of 2008. They were car camping in Moab and the oppressive heat at the time made them worry for their infant son. So they studied the local weather maps and decided to go where it was coolest within an 8-hour drive, ending up in Steamboat. Almost immediately, they knew this was the place that wanted to raise their family. Kelly is also a pharmacist, so before they left town they inquired in every pharmacy about job opportunities. By December, they had secured positions and made the move. Today, Matt and Kelly have four kids, 2 girls and 2 boys ranging in age from 6 to 11.
There’s been a pharmacy at the corner of 9th and Lincoln since 1924, and Matt ensures that it continues to serve as a community gathering place. In nominating Lyon’s for this award, one person noted that Lyon’s still donates “Lyon’s Bucks” – good for $1 ice cream cones – to countless organizations and causes, and never turns down a request. She said, “By offering this, they are allowing all a place to celebrate, gather, or mourn. Whatever the cause, a $1 cone from Lyons makes it all better.”
During the COVID pandemic, Matt took this community generosity several steps further. Lyon’s was one of the first places in Steamboat to make the vaccine available at no cost, and opened extra hours to serve our seniors so they felt safe getting vaccinated. To those who can’t make it to the pharmacy for necessary prescriptions or supplies, he will personally make after-hours deliveries at no charge. Recently, in a letter to the Steamboat Pilot, Adrienne Idsal, the manager of The Haven, wrote a heartfelt thank you to Matt for all he has done for the seniors in that assisted living facility. She noted that Matt delivers much needed medication every week, often returning for special deliveries, provided critically needed PPE at no cost, and on-going vaccination clinics. “He is a pleasure to work with and always takes time to connect with us, whether it is over the phone or in person, even when he has many other priorities.”
Under Matt’s leadership, Lyon’s Corner Drug supports just about any organization that comes in and asks for help. But Matt’s real passion is youth development and youth leadership. His favorite causes help kids explore new activities and develop new skills and interests. Matt says his charitable contributions are his way of giving back to the community that has chosen to support his business. As a historic, independent pharmacy that still has a soda fountain and still offers $1 cones, Matt knows that Lyon’s Drug is a bit of a unicorn. By maintaining the store as a community gathering place, Matt also helps to maintain the character and small town culture that makes Steamboat Springs special. And all the people walking by and greeting Matt are in their way both acknowledging and supporting that culture too.