Much like a river, the paths our lives take often meander, sometimes through obstacles and sometimes around them. Like many of us that call the Unc Valley home, Ray Valentine isn't originally from here. Also like many of us, how he got here and why he stayed is a common tale.
Valentine first came to Western Colorado back in 2001. He came - and stayed - for the lifestyle, specifically the abundant sunshine. “I worked in commercial real estate in Columbus, Ohio for a guy called Dick Soloff,” he said. “Soloff was a great guy but I just wanted to do something different. I got a pop up camper and tooled around Colorado for three months.”
Valentine ended up on the Western Slope - in the Uncompahgre Valley - and thought it was so beautiful and the people so friendly that he immediately started thinking of ways he could stay. Five months later he started Ray’s Jerky.
Valentine soon found a place to rent with two roommates and got to work with his jerky business. “I started off with three flavors, but quickly expanded due to demand,” he says. Slowly, Ray’s Jerky would become available online and at events around the state. He expanded into wholesale as well.
To listen to Ray interacting with his customers is to realize he had a background in sales, in Ray’s case real estate, but it seems to have translated well to jerky. His genial demeanor, coupled with handing out plentiful samples, translated to sales on the day we visited.
As for the jerky itself, if you like jerky, you’ll like Ray’s jerky. With beef, buffalo, elk and turkey in a range of flavors including teriyaki, barbecue and Pure Pain (flavored with ghost and habanero peppers), there is a jerky for everyone.
Today, Valentine has two “brick and mortar” locations, one on Highway 550 just south of Montrose and the other on Main Street in Ouray - and you’ll know Ray is in the house if his Cole, the monster Newfoundland, is there, too.