Aspen marijuana shops gear up for X Games crowd
The Aspen Times
With the Winter X Games expected to lure thousands of young adults to the Aspen area today through Sunday, most local marijuana shops are making plans for a potential retail bonanza.
On Wednesday, many dispensaries were busy stocking up on products and planning special promotions designed to lure customers. Five recreational pot stores are located in Aspen’s commercial core — Alternative Medical Solutions (or AMS), Green Dragon, Leaf, Native Roots and Silverpeak Apothecary. A sixth store, Stash, which formerly was located outside the city limits in the Aspen Business Center, opens Friday in the Durant Avenue Mall near City Market.
During last year’s Winter X Games, Aspen only had medical-marijuana shops. It wasn’t until March that Silverpeak became the first business to offer cannabis products to recreational users.
Native Roots, a Denver-based chain of marijuana shops, held a soft opening for its Aspen store on South Hunter Street above Zane’s Tavern on Wednesday afternoon. Rhett Jordan, a founding partner in the cannabis company, gave an emphatic answer when asked if the store’s opening date was timed with the start of this year’s games.
“That’s 100 percent what we’re doing,” Jordan said. “That’s why we pushed and got the store ready in less than two weeks. I got my building permits just 16 days ago.”
Jordan said he’s confident that Native Roots will have solid sales during its first weekend. He’s even co-hosting invitation-only events at the Crystal Palace building on East Hyman Avenue from today through Sunday that will showcase some of the X Games athletes along with promoting the store.
“My business concept for years has been to work with the action-sports industry to help bring athletes off of pharmaceutical drugs when they injure themselves and to use safer and less-addictive alternatives, such as cannabis,” he said.
The store’s grand opening will be Friday. Starting at noon, the first 100 customers will be offered a bottle of Foria — a THC-infused lubricant that purports to give women more fulfilling sexual sensations — for the price of a dollar.
“We launch that product at high noon,” Jordan said. “We’ll also be running all kinds of deals and specials all weekend long.”
Ben Bayko, one of the three partners at AMS on South Mill Street, said the expanded store is kicking off the Winter X Games with a party at the East Hopkins restaurant-row club Bootsy Bellows tonight at 10 p.m. The $30-per-person event will feature electronic-music makers in addition to promoting trendy fashions from the locally owned Isvera clothing line.
AMS began recreational sales in October, but was cramped with only 200 square feet of space. Now the shop boasts 1,500 square feet of space and a new, relaxed look — just in time for the X Games crowd — thanks to a recently completed expansion on the same floor of the building where it has been conducting medical-marijuana sales over the past few years.
“Once we got approval from the state to move, we moved,” Bayko said. “We started moving Sunday and opened on Monday. This will be our first X Games weekend for recreational sales.”
Like Native Roots, AMS will attempt to boost business with various specials, including THC-infused gummy bears for one cent and a 15 percent discount on any product “for all X Games visitors and anyone who walks into the store,” Bayko said.
Green Dragon, in the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall, expects so much business that it has beefed up security in preparation for the weekend. Extra cameras and personnel will be in place to ensure that business runs smoothly, according to owner Ron Radtke.
“We’ve doubled and tripled our security to make sure people who are not at least 21 years old don’t get into the store,” he said. “We also did it for crowd control, assuming that there will be times when a lot of people will want to get inside the store at once.”
In addition to boosting security, Radtke said he’s also expanded the store’s inventory.
“How many people were in the area for X games last year, 40,000 or 50,000 a day? If things get out of hand, it will be because we allowed it to get out of hand. As the owner, I’m not going to allow that,” he said.
Jordan Lewis, of Silverpeak, is advertising a sale of $1 grams of marijuana from today through Sunday. There’s a limit of one gram per person.
“That’s our grand welcome to the X Games community and a thank you to all the locals as well,” he said. “We hope everybody stops by and takes advantage of it.”
Jesse Miller, owner of Leaf, said he believes that a THC-infused energy drink, Blaze, will be a hit with the X Games visitors. It will be on sale for $15.
“That’s kind of the only thing we’re doing,” he said. “It’s a drink that’s geared toward the snowboard crowd. We make it and we’re the only ones in town who have it.”
He said Leaf won’t be involved in any intense marketing efforts.
“Typically, we let our market find us,” Miller said.
Garrett Patrick, owner of Stash, said his store reopens Friday at 8 a.m. in its new Aspen location near The Grog Shop liquor store. He said he’s not doing any special marketing to reach the X Gamers.
“There’s tons of kids at the X Games, and you’re really not supposed to market (cannabis products) toward kids,” he said.
Still, as part of the store’s “soft grand opening,” Stash will offer $1 joints Friday until noon, Patrick said.
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Organizers turned to the same strategy that marijuana activists used to decriminalize pot possession in 2005: “We’re talking about not putting people in jail.”