Why I Built My Business in Castle Rock (And You Can Too!)

A resident shares the ins and outs of owning a business in Castle Rock.

Written by Amy Antonation on September 18, 2023

Nick Lucy

Jason Gray came to Colorado in 1998 to open a business for someone else. The Washington state native was living in Alaska when his employer sent him to the Lower 48 to launch a café in Denver. When his job with the city ended, Gray remained at Centennial State.

“I fell in love with Colorado immediately, realized the winters here weren’t so bad and started looking for where I wanted to be,” he says.

He settled in Castle Rock, CO, and in 1999, opened Crowfoot Valley Café. Over the next 24 years, Crowfoot thrived, and Gray was elected mayor in 2018 after serving terms on the boards of several local business and development associations. Here’s what he had to say about starting and running a small business in the city.

Why did you start your career at Castle Rock?
I wanted to be in a smaller community so I could be an integral part of that community, and I was also looking for a town or city that was growing quickly. You have to know what growth pattern you’re looking at. At the time I moved here, Castle Rock had a population of about 15,000 people, and I knew they were selling about two houses a day here. I knew he was growing.

What local resources did you use to help you get started?
The Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce is a long-time fixture. I was fortunate to belong to a chamber in Alaska, so I wanted to join it here. As with any organization that helps businesses, you can’t just pay an affiliation fee. You have to get involved. If you throw money at it and then walk away, you’re throwing money down the drain – but if you get involved, I think that really helps.

How would you describe the small business scene in Castle Rock?
I think the small business scene is doing well right now. I love small businesses, but I especially love a good small business! I want to support them not just because they are friends but because they are good. Right now, we have (places like) Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co. Provision cocktail lounge, Emporium mini-mall and Tribe restaurant (on the Riverwalk).

Why would you recommend Castle Rock to other entrepreneurs looking to open a business?
For several reasons! The city does a good job of helping businesses, making it easy to file paperwork. In and around the city centre, there is a community of small businesses that depend on and trust each other.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs trying to open a business?
No matter the nature of the work, just stay consistent: know why you care about it and put the effort into it. You cannot constantly change your working hours. I think it’s difficult because there’s this ambiguity that says, “I can open a business and work whenever I want.”

I’ve been in coffee for over 35 years, and I don’t put in 80 hour weeks anymore, but it’s still a full-time gig. There are many companies that fail because the entrepreneur does not understand it.

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