The Rayback Collective: A Community Collection
Gabrielle DeCristofaro • September 28, 2016 • Lifestyle •
What started out as a casual conversation among friends in Sonoma, CA over a couple glasses of wine after a wedding, turned into a business venture among colleagues for something Boulder was missing.
The Rayback building on Valmont Road has worn a lot of hats before becoming what it is today: The Rayback Collective. Once, it was batting cages, and before that it was home to Rayback Plumbing Supply, owned and operated by Marion Rayback. According to president and co-founder of the Rayback Collective, Hank Grant, the team had initially considered a different name, but an older demographic from the neighborhood always knew it as the “Old Rayback building.” So the founders landed on calling it “The Rayback Collective.” And it truly is a collective. It combines several different concepts into one idea, while collecting people in Boulder together, not only in the immediate neighborhood, but in the whole city, in a space that was definitely needed in Boulder.
The Rayback Collective is an unsuspecting building, but once you pull into the parking lot and walk around to the entrance, it opens up into much more. As you approach the well-maintained backyard, picnic benches, cornhole and a fire pit line the food truck park which leads into an open indoor area which has a bar with 30 rotating beers on tap. Also, an event space, including a stage sponsored by the local brewery, Avery Brewing Co., which plays host to several musical acts a week.
Opening in July 2016, the concept was born in 2014 when the now owners were in San Francisco and came across the SoMa StrEat Food Park in the Mission District, and began wondering why there wasn’t one in Boulder.
“A couple of us went to Sonoma for a wedding, and after a couple glasses of wine, we started kind of throwing around the idea that it’d be pretty cool to do in Boulder,” according to Grant. “We don’t have anything like that. That trip ended, we came back home. Was it the wine? Is this something we actually want to do?”
They began to dig through city code and discovered a couple of reasons why this space didn’t exist already. First, the city didn’t know how to exactly classify them based on all of the different things they wanted to provide. Also, the original location they found was on the East End of Pearl Street, and the concept was going to be much simpler: a park where trucks pulled up, and a shipping container bar. But that didn’t work because of the zoning laws. And then in 2015 they discovered the corner of Valmont and 28th. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Rayback Collective formed into what it is today.
According to Grant, the initial inspiration was building community, but also he and his friends just wanted to create a place they would all want to hang out at. Many of their patrons come here on their lunch break, and at 5 p.m. the trucks all change over to cater to a dinner crowd. Many people walk, but there’s a bike path running alongside the building, making for even easier access.
The park isn’t just for an older crowd, either, as the team is also focused on family.
“We all cared about our community,” Grant said. “We thought there was a need on the event space side. So we put all the ideas together. And one of our other founders, Matt, has a couple of kids, and he’s like, ‘Where can you go in Boulder and hang out and let them run around and not feel like they’re going to take over a restaurant?'”
Further, another amazing aspect of the company is their goal to become completely waste-free. And they’re almost there already! The bar uses only aluminum and plastic products, and any “waste” is compostable or recyclable.
Although one of the fundamental goals of The Rayback Collective was to create a community space, they didn’t realize how much they would be helping small businesses. According to Grant, they planned to host and help food trucks, but it has become a platform for entrepreneurs to move from their food truck and into a brick and mortar business.
With the Fall already here, and Winter approaching, they are not too concerned about the widely-outdoor area. They just completed a fire pit, and there is plenty of room inside. Grant believes that if people will go skiing and have a beer out in the snow, people will still use this space.
The design and concept of The Rayback Collective have been so beautifully executed. It was hard in the beginning because they didn’t know exactly what they were going to be, but The Rayback Collective has matured into a company that allows small businesses, musicians, the environment and the community to succeed collectively.