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It’s bolo ties and bartending

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Chris Towne enjoying his retirement from city government

  

Stacy Drake

Nevada City Advocate


Ever think there’s no opportunities for upcycling common everyday items that might otherwise be relegated to the pile of someone’s forgotten memories? Things like jewelry pendants, watches and toy cars. 


Well, don’t tell Chris Towne that. He repurposes forgotten treasures to put his own spin on bolo ties and is quick to add, “these are not your grandfather’s bolos.”


The path that has led Chris to create his business – UpTowne Bolos – has been as serpentine as the ropes he uses for his bolos. He never had a clue he was destined for his most current creative pursuit. 


Growing up in Hayward, California, Chris wanted to be a bartender when he was in his 20s. But life got in the way and, instead, he became the water treatment plant supervisor in Napa for four years before coming to Nevada City and serving the community in the same capacity for the next 24 years. 


While serving as Nevada City’s water treatment plant supervisor, he became a broadcaster and shared his love for music by hosting his weekly Thursday Music Magazine show on KVMR for 15 years and sits on the KVMR Program Committee to this day. He also is a past recipient of KVMR’s Bill Tuttle Lifetime Achievement award.


When he retired with 28 years of city government work under his belt, he went back to bartending school and finally became a bartender.


“I tell people that I am finally back to Plan A. Somehow, I went straight into Plan B for 28 years,” Chris says with his familiar laugh 


When he began his 3 ½ years bartending gig at the National Hotel in Nevada City in 2014, the owner at the time, Tom Coleman, told him he had to wear a black string tie. 


He replied, “can I wear a bolo?” Tom agreed and while Chris was repairing one of his old bolo ties to wear the thought occurred to him that he should try making them. 


And make them he has. 


Chris has been crafting his brand of bolo ties for four years and emerged in the public eye in the past two years by participating in Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas. the First Friday Artwalks in Nevada City and other events. 


“I have always enjoyed attending craft shows and fairs. I would say to myself, this seems like it would be fun, but I didn’t do any craft. I have never considered myself a very creative person – until the bolos,” Chris said. “I like the hands-on approach it takes to build the bolo. I have to search for the pendants which become the ‘theme’ of the bolo. I find them at estate sales, thrift stores, garage sales and if I’m looking for something, in particular, I may go to E-Bay. I have to source the ropes or cords, the hardware, the glue, the tools – all of it. I even make my own pegged frames that display the bolos at the craft shows. I make everything from scratch. I love that I am truly making something from nothing in pretty much every component of my bolo business. I find that very satisfying”.


Chris will also make a bolo out of a sentimental piece. 


“I made a bolo for a guy who had a Native Sons medallion, which had been passed down in his family. He wanted to make a bolo out of it and it really was beautiful when it was finished.” 


Chris also assembles his bolo ropes by buying the unadorned cord and fitting it with the ends and bolo attachments – one by one. He thinks outside the box and uses any kind of reliable roping like, for example, decorative USB charging cable. Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly amusing and fun with the USB ends instead of a fancier bolo end. He even uses vegan leather, which is made from cotton and you cannot tell that it is not leather by looking at it.


Chris likes to proudly proclaim: “no animals were harmed in making this bolo.” He also uses chain, bootlace and braided leather for his bolos. 


Chris is gearing up now for his run in the upcoming Victorian Christmas events that start, Sunday, Dec 9, in downtown Nevada City. He will be occupying his usual spot – on South Pine Street in front of the Chocolate Shoppe. 


“All in all this was a natural process for me. I never planned it. I am having fun creating and building the bolos and interacting with the people at the craft fairs. I really prefer to do my business that way than online.” Chris said. “My bolos are very Nevada City – eclectic, no two are alike, made from everyday items from dominos, spark plug gapper, watches, small thermometers, Hot Wheels toy cars, I even made one from a small abacus for someone. I’ve finished an Alice in Wonderland series and next series is still undetermined. I’ll know it when I see it.”


So, how’s Chris’ Plan A dream working out these days since the closing of the National? 


Now, he’s living the best of both worlds for him – creating his bolos and bartending at the Wild Eye Pub in Grass Valley and always sporting one of his bolo creations, which he enjoys sharing with others.


“I like to see my customers excited about their bolo,” Chris says. “Bolos make a classy fashion statement and are an iconic replacement for a conventional tie in any situation”. 


For more information about UpTowne Bolos, email Chris at hilojax@gmail.com, call 530-559-3004 or visit him at his booth during Victorian Christmas in Nevada City, which will be held from 1:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday Dec. 9, 16 and 23 and from 5 to 9 p.m. on 

Wednesday, Dec. 12 and 19. 


This page:  

Chris Towne proudly displays his bolos in his booth at Victorian Christmas 2017. 


Previous page: 

Chris Towne in his studio in Nevada City surrounded by finished bolos and works in progress.

Photo by Stacy Drake