Pot shops in Denver’s nearby ski resort towns
It’s been a whirlwind year for the Summit dispensary scene.
In the past four months — yes, 2015 alone — one dispensary was booted from Main Street Breckenridge in a public vote, another was slapped with a federal racketeering lawsuit and yet another saw its license suspended by the state for multiple violations.
Whether intended or no, marijuana has put Summit County in the national spotlight unlike anything since the ski industry, and more often than not, small-business owners are leading the charge. Meet the owners and employees of the Summit Eight.
High Country Healing // SILVERTHORNE & ALMA
191 Blue River Pkwy. in Silverthorne.
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It’s little wonder that High Country Healing has fast become a must-see dispensary for curious visitors to the state of legal weed.
Found in a small, cramped shopping complex right off the first Silverthorne exit — the undisputed portal to the High Country — HCH opened in 2009 as a medical dispensary before adding retail sales in 2014. Since then, it’s partnered with local cannabis outfits like Cultivating Spirits and Bud and Breakfast Silverthorne to give Summit newcomers their first taste of Colorado pot.
Sure, the parking lot is a mess. And sure, the building itself isn’t gorgeous. But thanks to owner Nick Brown, a longtime medical patient and Princeton business grad, the shop’s locally grown strains and graffiti-laden interior have earned one hell of a reputation. Brown was featured on MSNBC’s “Pot Barons” series, which showcased his business savvy and dedication to cannabis education. The brand has now grown to five locations across the state.
About 30 minutes south of Breck at nearly 10,500 feet is High Country Healing II, the sole retail dispensary in wide-open Park County (nearby Alma Cannabis Therapeutics is medical only). The Alma HCH is smaller and quieter than its Silverthorne cousin, but the bud selection is no different.
Alpenglow // BRECKENRIDGE & DILLON
1805 Airport Rd. in Breckenridge,
765 W. Anemone Trail in Dillon.
Both are open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
With few exceptions, the majority of local dispensaries are either owned or heavily financed by entrepreneurs who don’t live in Summit. It’s not a bad thing necessarily — it just adds a wrinkle to the idea of a local pot shop.
Not so for Alpenglow. Opened by Summit High School graduate Justin Williams in 2009, the Breckenridge original is known for high-quality bud grown within steps of the long, lean, glass-lined bud bar.
And Alpenglow is on the rise. In February, Williams welcomed a second location in Dillon, becoming just the second dispensary owner to challenge HCH’s monopoly on the north end of Summit. This summer, he’ll finish a $250,000 expansion at the Breck grow to bring a new manufacturing site online. The hope: fill his shelves with everything Alpenglow.
“We found that people prefer shatter and wax is made from our own product,” Williams said. “We carry wholesale product now, but having this new facility will cut down on our emissions footprint and really get the best, most affordable product to the customer.”
Medical Marijuana of the Rockies // FRISCO
720 N. Summit Blvd. in Frisco
It’s been an odd year for Medical Marijuana of the Rockies. As the final medical-only center in Summit, owner Jerry Olson has managed to skirt the messy logistics of entering the equally messy retail world.
But it’s not as though Olson didn’t try. In February, he earned final approval to begin construction on a 10,000-square-foot facility in Frisco, complete with recreational sales, medical sales and an on-site grow. Then the lawsuit hit: the neighboring Holiday Inn partnered with a Washington,
D.C. organization to name Olson and nearly a dozen associates in a federal racketeering lawsuit.
As Olson continues to fight the suit — attorneys believe it could be dragged out for years — he’s still dedicated to patients. His current store, found less than a mile from the contested property near Holiday Inn, is known for high-quality clones. Since opening in 2009, he and his master growers have fine-tuned nearly a dozen clones made for medical use, including the popular Headband genetic and Gumby, a summertime release the dispensary will enter in the High Times Cannabis Cup.
Herbal Bliss // FRISCO
842 N. Summit Blvd. Unit 13 in Frisco.
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Unlike the majority of med-gone-retail dispensaries in Summit, Herbal Bliss owner Dawn Mlatecek had a difficult time justifying the switch. She knew it would mean financial security, particularly in a high-traffic location near the Frisco Walmart, but as a naturopathic doctor who’s long used marijuana as medicine, she had a small crisis of conscience when the dispensary shifted focus — even as business was booming.
“We went from seeing a few patients a day to seeing hundreds of people a day,” says Mlatecek, who toyed with selling the shop in 2014. “I got into this to work with remedies for ailments, and right now I’m not doing what I should be doing. Everyone says, ‘You’re nuts, there isn’t as much money in that,’ but I need to do something that satisfies me at a greater level, that speaks to my background.”
Then again, the transition gave everyone — not just red-card holders — access to the dispensary’s five signature strains, all grown in the southern mountain town of Salida.
Backcountry Cannabis Company // BRECKENRIDGE
1795 Airport Rd. Unit 3A in Breckenridge
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
In Summit last year, few acronyms were whispered as often as BCC (perhaps only VR, aka Vail Resorts, comes close). Ever since pot went legit, the former Main Street Breckenridge dispensary has seen rabid interest from locals, window shoppers, pro-pot activists, anti-legalization activists, the Breckenridge Town Council and CNN, which gave the shop and its young owners a documentary series, “High Profits.”
Through it all, BCC has managed to stay afloat and even tempt a name change, albeit a minor one. When it made the move from Main Street to Airport road — home to each of Breck’s other dispensaries — Breckenridge Cannabis Club switched to Backcountry Cannabis Company, christening its new home with a name made for franchising. (After all, a nod to Breck would never fly at BCC’s second location in Crested Butte.)
The acronym may be the same, but co-owner Brian Rogers says the shop itself is better than before. BCC moved into its former grow site, a much larger and more inviting space than the cute-yet-cramped cabin it enjoyed on Main Street. The remodeled Airport Road shop has a single sales floor, rather than three separate bud rooms, and all of its product now comes from a brand-new garden in Steamboat Springs.
Organix // BRECKENRIDGE
1795 Airport Rd. in Breckenridge.
Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Andy Gibson of Organix on Airport Road doesn’t simply want to hawk marijuana.
“We want people to have an experience rather than just come in to buy a bag of weed,” said the owner of the combo med and retail dispensary, which sees a healthy dose of one-time-only traffic. “When you have these larger groups, everyone has a different question. They’ve just never seen this before. People may not even smoke or eat edibles, but while they’re here, they want to see what it’s all about. It’s the experience.”
The Organix experience begins in the front lobby, where customers are greeted by an arcade game in one corner and an employee checking IDs in the other. It’s a nod to the dispensary’s caregiver roots, and even today, Gibson still wants to do right by his medical patients.
“We wouldn’t be here recreationally if it weren’t for our medical patients,” Gibson said. “Organix just wouldn’t exist, so we wanted to make sure we were treating them well as we expanded into recreation.”
All marijuana sold at Organix is grown at a Denver garden, which will soon be joined by a concentrate-manufacturing site solely for medical products. Gibson says the edibles selection is a major draw, with products from leading Front Range manufacturers like Blue Kudu, Incredibles and Love’s Oven.
Native Roots // FRISCO
861 N. Summit Blvd. in Frisco.
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Shortly before Christmas in 2014, Colorado’s first statewide dispensary brand came to Frisco. Native Roots also became the first new dispensary to open in Summit since the advent of legal marijuana — the rest were all founded when the industry was medical only, making the Denver-based chain something of a new kid on the block.
Yet after five years in the bustling, almost oversaturated marketplace of downtown Denver, Native Roots has fine-tuned its approach to an ever-changing industry.
Found in the old Frisco A&W building, the combination medical and recreational dispensary is already known for its monochromatic color scheme
and chic urban vibe.
It’s the exact same atmosphere found at sister dispensaries in EagleVail, Aspen and, within the next year, Dillon. But customers hardly mind, including celebrity types like the guys from Korn. With a massive lineup of Denver-made strains, waxes, oils and vaporizer pens, customers know they’ll get the same Native Roots product each and every time they swing by the shop, no matter the locale. And hey, it worked for the fast-casual industry.
Breckenridge Organic Therapy // BRECKENRIDGE
1900 Airport Rd. Unit A1 in Breckenridge
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
There’s something to be said for selling only organic marijuana, especially when it’s in the company name.
Since opening shop in 2010, Breckenridge Organic Therapy has only carried marijuana grown organically at its Boulder-based garden. That means growers trim and cure each plant by hand, without the help of electronics, hydroponic equipment, pesticides or any soil additives. And for owner Adam Weiss, it shows.
“We take time and pride in our product,” said Weiss, who also owns Bolder Cannabis and the concentrate manufacturer Bolder Extracts. “All of our weed is amazing. We have strains no one else carries, and even the ones other people do carry we can grow them better.”
Of course, organic products means organic pricing — call it the Whole Foods effect — but the dispensary still offers a rotating 1/8-ounce strain each day for $30 and locals discounts (just remember to bring proof of residency).
Come early summer, the relatively small sales floor and attached lounge area will get a facelift. Not that the shop quite needs a makeover — it has a cozy living-room vibe that’s immediately welcoming — but Weiss is working with architects and graphic designers to give it a more distinct mountain feel.
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