Oct. 16—A nonprofit group that runs a job program for people with disabilities is expanding its reach by opening a Boulder gift shop and forging a new partnership.
Ramble Marketplace is slated to open Thursday at 3075 Pearl Parkway. The nonprofit is run by wife and husband Connie and Andy Minden.
Andy Minden, Ramble Collective president and the board chair, said he looks forward to the chance to further extend the nonprofit's reach and connection with the Boulder County community. The program was created in partnership with the Boulder Housing Partners.
"People who shop at our retail stores are not only getting good products, but they're also shopping with a cause," Minden said. "We're trying to expand the number of people who are aware. There's a lot of new residential development in the location of our new store."
This expansion marks the nonprofit's second store location. Its first, Ramble on Pearl, at 1638 Pearl St., is a Boulder clothing and accessories boutique. It's here where people with disabilities can be part of an apprenticeship program. Through the program, they get paid job experience and training from job coaches, who will teach them the skills to be successful in a job outside the store.
Ramble Marketplace will hire five to six additional apprentices. The store will sell Boulder-based artisan products, including books, prints, paintings, hats, toys, jewelry and linen products, to name just a few. Minden said the new program is slated to start in January, with people outside the apprenticeship program planned to get the store up and running first.
The store is in the first floor of a Boulder Housing Partners 30Pearl Project affordable housing apartment building. Among the 120 units, 20 are dedicated to people with disabilities. People who live there will now have the option of working for Ramble Marketplace.
Another element of the partnership is the Ramble Community Connection's program, which offers on-site services to support those living there and encourages a sense of community through such activities as painting, watching movies together and outings.
Boulder Housing Partners, the city's housing authority, owns and manages affordable housing, as well as develops or purchases more affordable housing.
Laura Sheinbaum, Boulder Housing Partners director of real estate development, said the affordable housing property at Pearl Parkway and 30th Street is made up of three buildings, with Ramble Collective's program in the Bluebell building. Sheinbaum said tenants pay a portion of their income for rent, and a project-based housing voucher subsidizes the rest of the cost. People have been living at the new property since March.
She called the effort between the nonprofit and Boulder Housing Partners "a great partnership."
"Having the on-site support services to help people live successfully on their own is critical," Sheinbaum said. "The Ramble Collective's Andy and Connie are some of the nicest, big-hearted people in the world. They're going to be integral to making the property a success."
In addition to expanding their reach, Andy Minden said he and Connie knew that working in retail wasn't the right learning environment for every person who wanted to be an apprentice.
"Many individuals that have a higher degree of social anxiety, perhaps those that are on the autism spectrum, the very customer-focused aspect of our retail clothing boutique makes it difficult for them to really take advantage as a job-training, work-experience program," Minden said. "Our whole strategy is to create an environment that will be less customer-facing."
To offer training for these individuals, the marketplace will also offer "gift collections" — themed gift boxes featuring snacks, sweets and drinks that will be packaged in a back office space for distribution. Boulder Boxes are one example and will be designed to give parents the chance to send their college student a box of Boulder-based snacks. Apprentices will get to work in this space, while not having the stress of face-to-face customer contact.
The partnership bolsters the nonprofit's mission to help give people with disabilities the independence they deserve.
"Across Boulder County, there's something in the order of 800 individuals that have various intellectual and developmental disabilities that are living with their parents that may be age 60 and above," Minden said. "There's a real lack of quality housing and affordable housing for that population."
Minden added several master apprentices are now looking for work outside the store to make room for a new round of apprentices.
"Anyone looking for very reliable and hard-working individuals, we have individuals ready to come out (and work)," Minden said.
Already, Sheinbaum said she has been touring the facility and showing people how the partnership works. Sheinbaum said she hopes it serves as a model to other surrounding communities.
Minden said the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays-Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The gift shop website is still under construction. People can learn more about the nonprofit online at rambleonpearl.com. People who are interested in being job coaches can apply at email@example.com and those seeking apprenticeship roles can apply at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It's awesome," Sheinbaum said. "I want people to know about it."