The list of future franchises or corporate locations of Boulder-based Rush Bowls is a collection of destinations either well established in or on the cusp of cool: Nashville, Tenn.; Portland, Ore.; Denver’s Highlands neighborhood (also known as LoHi).
Add one more soon-to-be-hot spot: Gunbarrel. The hamlet, technically part of the city of Boulder, has welcomed a handful of new dining and drinking options in recent months, drawn in by an influx of younger residents who are happy to stay close to home for a night out.
“It’s been a sleepy little situation — now, it’s awake,” said Edward Vanegas, owner and operator of Aperitivo by Kafe Urban in the town, along with Kafe Urban and Urban Thai in Longmont.
Commercial sales and use tax in the area, according to public records from Boulder, were up 61 percent between 2010 and 2016. Last year, the area brought in nearly $1.7 million.
Rush Bowls has moved into a 4,000-square-foot space at 5400 Spine Road, where it will locate its corporate offices and a new retail store. The long-established Boulder eatery at 1207 13th St. on the Hill will remain, and six locations in the Denver metro are planned, along with 20 franchises across the country.
Founder and CEO Andrew Pudalov has lived in Gunbarrel since 2004. Things really got cooking in 2013 with the addition of the Hampton Inn & Suites, he said. Apartment buildings, such as the 231-unit Apex 5510, soon followed, bringing in a host of new residents to supplement the sizable daytime population.
“We felt this huge potential, with all the people moving in and the breweries,” Pudalov said. “Gunbarrel is a light that is getting brighter and brighter every day.”
Recent resident Maria Hennessey — she moved from Boulder two years ago with her husband, explorer Eric Larsen, and kids — said at first she was worried about moving to what might feel like “the middle of nowhere” when compared to Boulder.
“We actually really enjoy Gunbarrel,” said Hennessey, who still works in Boulder at her active lifestyle marketing firm, SMAK Strategies. “The longer we’ve been there, the more we appreciate it.”
The family is within walking distance of the King Soopers shopping center and a few breweries. Last year, Hennessey and her friends began a tradition of a biking brew tour, hitting up two in Niwot and three in Gunbarrel.
She loves the feel of the area’s smaller taprooms: “Really good beer, cool atmosphere, family friendly — just kind of neighborhood spots.”
Gunbarrel Brewing Company became the latest addition to the local beer offerings earlier this year, joining Avery, Asher, Finkel & Garf and Vindication. Vanegas’ Aperitivo is the newest food option; it opened less than a month ago in the Apex apartment community. Another fresh restaurant, Element Bistro, celebrated its one-year anniversary this month.
The response to Aperitivo — open for daytime coffee and small plates — has been “positive” so far, Vanegas said, and he expects crowds to increase once a liquor license is approved and weekend hours are extended from 5 to 10 p.m.
He supports even more competition in the area, saying he wants a “community” of food and drink vendors. The founder of the weekly summertime Sound Bites event, previously known as Prospect Eats, he wants to create a vibe similar to that of Longmont’s Prospect neighborhood.
“The residents of Gunbarrel, they’re coming out in droves,” he said. “This is a community that does patronize (local) restaurants… if you’re good.”