Ray Brothers BBQ Prepare to Open Pop-Up Location in Hamilton

Ellie Weber, Staff Writer

Ray Brothers BBQ, owned by brothers Tucker and Colin Ray, is in the process of opening a new location in downtown Hamilton called Smoking’ Brothers Inc. The restaurant will be located at 22 Utica St, the space formerly occupied by Bueno Tacos. It plans to be open by the end of September.

Ray Brothers BBQ’s primary location is just outside Hamilton in Bouckville, NY. Over the years, they have expanded into catering, providing food for numerous Colgate events.

“[The Bouckville location] is our mainstay,” Tucker Ray said. “We started the restaurant in 2014. In eight years we have expanded the restaurant. We added the bar room with much more seating. We have added a 4,000-square-foot kitchen so we can prep for large events, like when Colgate asks to do graduations and reunions. We’ve cooked for 3,000 or more people for an event, but we can do smaller events as well.”

The restaurant in Bouckville also houses a music venue that can hold up to 1500 people, hosting well-known acts throughout the summer. They are known for their ribs, which were named Food Network’s ‘Best Ribs in New York’. 

Having a restaurant outside of Hamilton, the Ray brothers have been connected to both the town and Colgate prior to their opening of Ray Brother’s BBQ. “We’re right from Hamilton. We grew up here. Our mother was actually a teacher in Hamilton,” Tucker Ray said. 

Both brothers have been in the restaurant business for 20 years, working as either kitchen managers or general managers. When the opportunity arose to have their own restaurant outside of town, they decided on barbecue. 

“Barbecue was just one of those things we had a passion for and really at the time, there wasn’t any around. You went to Syracuse,” Tucker Ray said. 

After getting their business in Bouckville going, they decided to capitalize on their unique position with the university and offer catering services. 

“We realized that the students and Colgate itself, faculty and staff, is one of the largest influxes of people and employment in our area. And we knew that if we could hopefully capitalize off of our business through the school that it would only help what we are doing out here in Bouckville,” Tucker Ray said. 

Ray explained that the building at 22 Utica St is set to be demolished and rebuilt. “This is a short-term thing for us. We realize that our lease is only basically through graduation of ‘23, so it is kind of a pop-up thing for us,” Tucker Ray said. 

The Ray brothers previously set up a pop-up in Colgate’s Hall of Presidents in James C. Colgate Hall as the University attempted to increase safe, socially-distant dining options during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The location in Hamilton will offer a different menu, featuring grab-n-go style food.

“Gourmet barbecue sandwiches, deli meats that we smoke ourselves and burritos. All of the ingredients we’ll be making right here in Bouckville and selling in Hamilton,” Tucker Ray said. 

Though they hope to open by the end of September, they are currently working around supply chain issues. 

“We are waiting on a few pieces of equipment,” Tucker Ray said. “There have been a few hiccups.”

Amid a widespread staffing shortage throughout the Hamilton community, Tucker Ray hopes the new restaurant’s smaller scale will attract different types of employees. 

“Our hopes are that we can add some employment, get a few more local people a steady job for these winter months,” Tucker Ray said. “We’re looking to see if we can get some student employment. This is a really good opportunity for any students that are looking for just a supplemental income while they are at school. It’s not going to be a very heavy hour load. The grand scheme of it is to branch ourselves out from the menu we have out here in Bouckville.”

Many students have visited the location in Bouckville, including sophomore Betsy Figge. “I really like to get the pulled pork platter with bomb sauce. You can choose your sides. I like to get mac and cheese. Overall it’s a great experience. I really recommend going to the actual restaurant because it’s a really cool vibe, really fun,” Figge said. 

Sophomore Bella Ohrt is excited about the idea of a downtown location.

“It’s a great idea. It’s all the way in Bouckville right now and it’s kind of hard to get there. It would be so good to have it in Hamilton and be able to walk. Between the dining halls and the restaurants already downtown, I would love to see some more variety,” Ohrt said. 

Beyond the new pop-up barbecue location downtown, Ray mentioned business prospects for the future of the village, telling the story of his grandfather who was awarded an honorary diploma from Colgate after fighting in World War II.

“His name was Russ Ray. He used to have the old train station that’s down next to the firehouse in Hamilton. It’s 44 Milford St. He started a local business. It was called Ray’s Wayside, doing furniture, floor coverings, and a whole bunch of things. Now we have purchased that building and are going to repurpose into six rental spaces. It’s all going to be geared towards health and beauty.” 

Ray explained that in this space, as soon as New York allows for the applications, they hope to open up a marijuana dispensary. 

For now, at 22 Utica St., Tucker Ray sees the need for some change in the village.

 “I think it will give Hamilton a little more variety that it needs as far as food goes,” Tucker Ray said.