Neither Megan nor Mark Hymanson grew up around guns. "The first time my husband touched a gun was in the Marines," says Megan. "First time I touched one is when he asked, ‘Hey, you want to go try and do this?’” Fast-forward to today, and the wife-and-husband team, along with family friend David Grasso, are co-owners of the Gallery, which became Colorado's first public shooting range with a full-service bar and restaurant when it opened in April 2022.
When Megan Hymanson first started visiting shooting ranges with her husband, "I felt unsafe," she recalls. "I’m really short, and so when there are big men with big firearms pointed in my direction, I just freaked out and I panicked, and I said, this isn’t something for me. And when we were talking to the range safety officers, I felt like they were trying to talk to my husband for me. ... And I felt like just because I’m a 4'11" female, I just wasn’t welcome.”
So they took a break from the shooting ranges until a friend suggested they check out one on the East Coast that had a full-service bar and restaurant. The concept intrigued Megan, she says, “because then if I didn’t feel comfortable shooting, at least while I’m waiting for [my husband] to shoot, I’d have something else to do. And when we discovered there wasn’t something similar in Colorado, a lightbulb went off, and it snowballed from there.”
They each brought useful experience to the project: Megan worked in advertising for fourteen years, marketing movies such as The Greatest Showman, Murder on the Orient Express and The Simpsons Movie. After leaving the Marines in 2007, Mark got an MBA and worked in advertising. Grasso worked as a tech recruiter, but also had a hospitality background, having owned a restaurant in California. To fill in the gaps, they brought in several consultants — including the owner of Wilshire Gun Club in Oklahoma City, one of the first ranges in the country with an on-premises bar and restaurant.
They felt that Lakewood would be the ideal location for the concept. "This side of town, we're closest to the mountains. People naturally, if you're into firearms, you usually live an active lifestyle where you like to hunt, fish, camp, all that," Megan explains. "And it's our home. We live two miles down the road, and so we wanted to get immersed in our community."
The bar in particular comes with unique challenges — most important, how to ensure that people don't drink before picking up a gun. The solution is a combination of high- and low-tech measures. The range and the Barrel have separate check-in desks. At each, every customer’s ID is scanned and cross-checked. “We worked with our [point-of-sale] system to build us a proprietary tool so that when we scan IDs at the bar, it talks to the machines at the range desk. So if somebody were to check into the range after they’ve been at the bar, they’re locked out instantly for the rest of the day,” Megan explains. “And while you’re on the range, we hold on to your ID so you can’t stop at the bar.”
Staff are trained to constantly remind patrons to visit the range before eating, so that they aren't tempted to add a beer or cocktail to their meal. The technology is even sophisticated enough to group the IDs of everyone at your table, so even if just one person at the table orders a drink, the entire group is locked out of the range for the day.
Despite the operational challenges, having the full-service bar and restaurant was a non-negotiable. The co-owners wanted the Gallery to feel like an inclusive social club, where customers could come in, have fun and relax — similar to bowling alleys, Dave & Busters or ax-throwing spots.
"This is not a rowdy bar where people are up until 2 a.m. slamming shots," Megan emphasizes. "But alcohol is part of Colorado culture. We’ve got so many amazing breweries, so many local distilleries. ... There’s something very relaxing about having a drink after you shoot.”
Ballmer Peak and State 38, both of which often host whiskey tastings at the Barrel Room.
Even with the safety measures in place, “a handful of people from outside of the firearm community that have been keyboard warriors are like, ‘Oh, guns and alcohol. What a great mix. Just wait for…’ And they’ll say something absolutely inappropriate,” Megan says. “We like to think that we’re safer than any other range because we go the extra mile to look for inebriation. ... And then we like to think that we’re safer than any other bar because [we scan] every single ID.”
Almost every customer who walks in to shoot on the range will visit the Barrel Room afterward. In fact, 30 percent of customers just come in to eat, drink, watch the game and hang out, Megan notes. Having a bar and restaurant on site that is enticing enough to be a standalone business is important, she adds, because it supports the Gallery's mission to destigmatize firearms by helping to create a more enjoyable, low-stress experience for everyone, whether they're visiting the range or not.
“I like to say our biggest barrier is literally the front door," Megan says. "We’ve got a really good melting pot of people that come in. ... The first thing is always, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you want to learn safe firearm handling, if you want to learn defensive pistol, or if you just want to have fun and try something different, this is going to be a place where you’re going to be welcomed.”
The shooting bays at the Gallery are encased in floor-to-ceiling glass, both so that first-timers can get a sense of what to expect before stepping inside, and also because the extra exposure puts those shooting on their best behavior.
The Gallery also offers special programs specifically for women — an ode to Megan’s not-so-great experiences at other ranges. Every first Wednesday of the month is Women’s Wednesdays, during which it dedicates an entire bay for women only, staffed by female range safety officers and offers extras like skin care product demos, discounted Botox and wine-pairing classes.
Because of its female-focused outreach, the Gallery has hosted bachelorette parties, baby showers and even a divorce party or two. "In a year and a half, I went from being afraid of guns to loving the sport, and now I have a collection of my own," says Nicole Lorah, who has been a member at the Gallery for a year. "The staff at the Gallery taught me so much and helped me build my confidence. The environment is welcoming and fun, and the staff is great with offering encouragement, answering questions and providing tips on improving your skill. The Gallery is exactly what I was looking for."
The member base also has an active LGBTQ+ community that organizes group shooting practices and happy hours. For the Gallery, “it doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll get treated with respect here,” Megan concludes.
The Gallery Range & Restaurant is located at 1350 Colorado Mills Parkway in Lakewood. For more information, including range and restaurant hours, visit thegallerysportsmansclub.com.