MARBLE, Colorado - In a village of anywhere from 80 to 170 people, depending on the season, the concept of community may be difficult to define.
Everybody knows everybody else, town politics and personal animosities tend to get mixed together, and there are not enough people to sustain much commercial activity.
Welcome to Marble, Colorado.
The fact is that, within its breathtaking setting high in the Crystal River Valley, there is a deliberate kind of isolationist attitude cultured by residents here.
And there have always been a determined few who felt they could make a living up here, or at least make a difference, in spite of the odds.
Ryan Vinciguerra, 29, and Karly Anderson, 28, are the latest of that number. They are the owners of the Slow Groovin' BBQ restaurant, at the corner of West Main and West First streets in the heart of town.
The couple have been running the restaurant since buying it last year from Woody Norton, who ran a place called Woody's in the same building.
"We really love it here. We're really happy with our decision," Vinciguerra said.
They juggle running the restaurant with caring for their 2-year-old son, Tobin.
"For our second season, it feels like we're starting to build a good base of customers, locals and tourists," he said.
Slow Groovin' is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week in the late spring, summer and early fall.
Last winter, from November to April, they cut the hours back to just a Friday night buffet. It became "kind of like a locals' night," Vinciguerra said, with 30 or 40 people playing Wii bowling on the big screen TV, drinking beer and munching on whatever dish was offered that night.
To liven up the place, he said, Slow Groovin' hosts an open mic night on Tuesdays, and occasionally other evenings if there is a musician or two hoping to play.
Vinciguerra was working in Aspen, he said, when he came up to Marble for a hike and was entranced by the place.
He and Anderson had been working at the Little Nell, he as the food and beverage manager and she as the bar supervisor at Montagna. When they learned that Norton wanted to sell the business, they jumped for it.
Living upstairs from the restaurant when it's open, he said, the couple has been happily steeping themselves in the local culture, but they avoid local politics.
"We check the politics at the door," he said, to ensure harmony and keep at bay the kind of ill will that can occur in small towns.
And no one minds, he said.
"It seems like the people are trying to make the town more hospitable," Vinciguerra explained.
Around the corner from Slow Groovin', The Marble Hub is in the old Marble City State Bank building, built in 1909 during the marble-fueled economic boom of the early 20th century and renovated in the 1990s.
Opened on Memorial Day 2011, thanks in part to a $25,000 grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund Rural Initiative program, the Hub is run as a combination coffee bar, crafts outlet for local artisans, community gathering place and fund-raising center for nonprofits, according to director Charlotte Graham.
In its first year of operation, Graham said, the Hub raised a total of $8,000 for six local nonprofits - Marble Charter School, Marble Community Church, Crystal Valley Preschool, Crystal River Heritage Association, Marble Crystal River Chamber, and Crystal River Civic Commission - and other recipients.
The Hub is able to do all this by recruiting a small army of 48 volunteers to serve as hosts, Graham said. The hosts donate their time, and funds are raised through sales.
"For as small as Marble is, we have had such good participation," Graham said of the Hub's success so far.
"There's never been a public gathering spot in town," she said, other than bars, restaurants or the now-defunct Marble Community Store. "It's sort of opened up communications here," providing a place where locals can meet, sip and chat.
And for those so inclined, there is Wi-Fi Internet access for a small fee.
The Hub also serves as an emergency communications center for the community. It has a scanner radio to gather news of disasters or other emergencies, and a portable defibrillator provided by Pitkin County.
Graham said when a house in town burned down a few weeks ago, residents feared the fire would turn into a wildfire.
That did not happen, she said.
"But we got all sorts of calls here," she said, from concerned residents. "It was a good little rehearsal for us."
This summer, business has picked up.
"Our shifts are doing double to three times the traffic they were doing last year," she said. "So people are coming in."
The Marble Hub is open 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. seven days a week.
For information, visit www.themarblehub.org .