A Message of Passion and Perseverance
We have come a long way. We have a long way to go. Grab a cup of coffee, a bowl of ice cream or a bucket of popcorn. This is the story of how we started. We share it now because it is the story of the little gallery that could. These days, we figure everyone could use some story time and some positivity as we push forward.
Nearly 13 years ago we embarked on a new adventure. With wide eyes, open hearts and big dreams we moved to Breckenridge, Colorado. We are the Raitman family and we did something so completely different from everything we had ever known. We opened an art gallery.
It was fall in 2007. Brian had just graduated from Temple University and Ross was still studying at the University of Colorado. Mike and Dena, our parents, were looking for something to do. They figured they would open an art gallery. That it would be fun, and a wise way to get in-state tuition for Ross' final years in college. They were supposed to go at it alone.
That seemed silly to Brian. As a family we had fallen head over heels in love with Breckenridge. Living there would be a dream. So he turned down a great job offer on the East Coast and moved back in with his parents. Together, we gave birth to a full-fledged American Dream infused family business.
With the mission of spreading joy and beauty we forged relationships with artists that made people laugh. We became friends with artists that made people fall in love with Colorado, just as we had. There was a little 850 square foot space that we could call our own. For the first time, we welcomed people into our fun-filled, four walled world a few days before Thanksgiving.
One single week of being open went by and our country fell into a deep recession. We didn't know what hit us. But we knew what to do. We smiled through it. We maintained a resolve that we carry with us to this day.
You see, there was no way that we wouldn't continue this dream. It just wasn't possible. We built a place where we could bring our dogs to work and make new friends smile every day. It didn't matter to us that we were a brand new business selling a "non-essential" collection of art. Brian figured he'd live a ski bum lifestyle, work a lot and figure it out one day at a time. Mike and Dena were just having fun. All that really mattered was that the people who came into our small gallery had fun too. We'd get the money sorted out later.
We made it two years. Sales were few and far between, but enough to give us hope and pay our gallery's bills. Ross had been helping out on weekends all this time. In December of 2009 he decided he had enough with working towards his masters degree in Architectural Engineering. He too moved to Breckenridge and joined the gallery full time. Our youngest brother, Adam, followed his passions towards civil engineering. Ross joining the family business was a game changer.
"Family Tree" by Houston Llew
"Other things may change us, but we start and end with family." -Anthony Brandt
Our country was moving out of a big recession. We had cut our teeth in it, learned a lot and kept smiling. We had started to shift our focus a little, from art strictly for the sake of fun and more towards art for the beautification of our world. We drew upon Dena's background in the art world and really started fine-tuning our collection. Dena and Mike used to drag all three of the Raitman boys to museums and fine-art galleries when they were young. They had collected art for their own home and made sure the boys grew up appreciating life's finer things.
We developed a new creed: if we're going to put art in the gallery, we better want that same exact painting or sculpture in our home. Continuing to refine our collection lead to more sales. It fed our hunger for more art too.
In November of 2011 we had saved up enough money to purchase our neighbor's space. We expanded! We doubled the size of our gallery and spent countless nights remodeling, rehanging and building for the future. Up and away right? Our sales almost doubled!
Almost two years later we took a huge leap. Brian had big plans for his birthday: a second location. It seemed a fitting gift to himself, and would come from our whole family given the hard work we all put into our business. We went to Vail. Boom. A space on Bridge Street sat completely empty, as if it was beckoning for some art in the window. Our dogs loved it too. It was a new place to explore and we set to work making it beautiful for our visitors to do just that.
"Little Charlie" by Marty Goldstein
We started to get the sense that we were getting good at what we chose to do for a living. Brian and Ross could finally afford to move out of their parents basement. Brian was dating his now wife, Liz, at the time. So Ross moved out of Breckenridge and over to the Vail Valley. Hanging exhibitions kept us up until the wee hours of the morning. If we went home by 3 am we were thrilled. Working in the winter and summer seasons meant 60, 70, 80 hour work weeks. We still wanted more though. Fueled by the desire to add more art to our collection, we kept our eyes open for more opportunities, more walls to fill.
Spring of 2017 brought us just that. Our South Breckenridge space was about to be vacant. Through a call from a friend in the art world, we made a deal to expand into the space. It had housed galleries for the past three decades. We wanted to continue the tradition of Breckenridge's south Main Street showing off fine works of art. It also meant that we could show a lot more artists.
Three locations meant we needed to train a full-fledged staff. We built our business by being hands on. By becoming friends with our visitors. By investing our time and our hearts in their lives. Now, we needed to find people to do just that.
Jump forward a few years and we have an incredible crew. We also have a new space in Vail. We jumped at the opportunity to move into a larger location, right next to Gore Creek. We haven't announced it yet, as the timing has seemed odd given the pause the world is taking, but we bought our neighbor's space in Breckenridge again a couple of months ago. We are in the midst of expanding our original location for the second time. Things are moving slower than planned now, but we'll get it ready to open soon.
In the meantime, we do what we seem to have perfected as a business over all these years, making the best of what we have. Smiling. Spreading beauty and joy. We appreciate all of your support, from reading this and sharing in our journey to having the faith in us and our artists to make your world more beautiful. If there is something you've been thinking about adding to your home, now is a good time to let us know. Our artists have been hard at work in their studios. We've been working behind the scenes to make our galleries better than ever.
We will be here when the world opens back up. We all know that it will. As people, we are all too resilient. We are all too determined. We have created lives that we love living. We will get back to what we know as normal.
We are almost 13 years into our business. We went from having one small gallery to almost 8,000 square feet of art filled walls and pedestals in three locations. How? Passion. Perseverance. We love the artists we work with. We love you, the people we have met over all these years who we feel are a part of our family. There is absolutely no chance we could do this without you. For that, we thank you.