Because of my previous association with the magazine distributor located in the Denver area on my trips to CO to check in with the hive-get my brain sufficiently washed by the powers that be there-I would always stay in Boulder at the Inn at the Foot of the Mountain. The motel first built in the 30’s –  has small  cabins like you see in the picture. It’s right across from the creek in Boulder and you can hike  up the mountains behind the inn- and walk another way- down to the Pearl St. pedestrian mall where Boulder Books, cafe’s like the Trident and all kinds retail stores are located-including one of the two cannabis shops I saw in Boulder.


Foot of the Mountain Inn-Boulder, 

The first one I went to is located downstairs on the corner of the Pearl St. mall and Broadway.  As you might expect the two stores I saw in Boulder were quite a bit different than the one in Pueblo.

The locations  here  reflected the same kinds of differences you see with grocers around the country. Boulder’s demographics, income structure, education level is naturally different from Pueblo’s (and stores I’ve seen in Seattle and Bellingham, WA )  and this is reflected in the Boulder stores I saw.

The store on Pearl St. part of a 17 store chain owned by Native Roots which does both medicinal and recreational (plus has 3 gas stations that also sell cannabis products) conjured up an image for me of private pharmacy located in a bank vault. As opposed to Pueblo, this store is small and the decor while minimal exudes an upscale air. Instead of a guard posted at the door, there’s a desk where a pleasant young man examines your id before buzzing you into the next room where the transactions take place.

cannabis-boulder-store-on-pearlIt feels something like entering a doctor’s office. The next room is also smallish maybe 10′ by 10′ in front of the counter which is also glass. But here the decor and POP looks like it was custom-designed to suggest a serious feel to the experience.

Another young man was at the counter to serve you. He, like the woman at the counter in the other Boulder store I visited couldn’t have been more helpful and enthusiastic. I was impressed and thought this is the kind attitude any retailer would love to have among her staff.  He sounded like he knew his stuff. And isn’t that half the battle in doing any retail?

I saw more of Mary’s topical products for aches and pains. (see the previous post about another of their products). He showed me this one:

cannabis-topical-openedcannabis-topical-packaging-on-the-sideIt’s an ointment that’s applied directly to the affected area. It’s not creamy but feels like a wax type of substance for the base. My experience with the topical pain treatments is -they work.  Due to the numbers of Baby Boomers that are around I can’t help but feel that the day when these natural pain reliving compounds with cannabis will be found in natural and specialty-even regular grocery stores-can’t be far off. If stores can sell alcohol (and do the carding of the customer) it would seem that these kinds of products -since they’re health-related, should be made available as well.

In the traditional medicine of the early Spanish settlers in New Mexico for instance, cannabis prepared in different ways, was just one of many other herbs used to treat various ailments.

One again like every shop I’ve seen, there’s no impulse purchasing-no fixture with anything like you might see in a grocery store. In a way, due to the sedate and medicinal kind of feeling to this store you almost wouldn’t expect to see anything like a a fixture designed for impulse except business is business and if there was….a fixture with whatever impulse items they could have-rolling papers, magazines, pipes etc-my guess is there would be a number of additional sales to be had.

This store wasn’t busy at the time so I’m not sure how the customer flow is. Is it one customer at a time in the room or do they do a line queue?

In the other Boulder store I visited down on Arapahoe below 28th street next to the great Hospice thrift store they too had a room where you checked in at a desk-again something like a doctor’s office-with sofas and chairs-but they only let one person in at a time-into small room where a young woman- bright, enthusiastic-served you.

She was more than happy to explain anything about their offerings. For instance they had what’s called “wax” there. From what I was able to glean, this form of cannabis product is processed with CO2. I remember a few years back when I was attending the Natural Products Expo held in Anaheim each Spring and in Baltimore in the Fall there was a man-quite a character-who was a “dealer” of Kava Kava root produced in a similar fashion.

He used to give a party during the Expo, later in the evening where Kava Kava-not drinking -was the main event. He used a “super critical” process to reduce the whole Kava Kava root into a thick, yellowish paste. Than he’d pass it around on a tray like a dip which you used some Chinese candied ginger pieces to scoop it up and eat.

It was like a 60’s party. You’d walk into the room and everyone was just so chill-sprawled out and just this mellow vibe to the scene.

But  you’ve never had Kava Kava like this before. As soon as you put that first taste of this paste in your mouth-your lips and tongue went numb. Than a moment later your body got this overpowering sense of relaxation. I have to wonder whether the traditional use of Kava Kava in the South Pacific ever delivered an effect like this. The strange thing is, the first time I tried Kava Kava in this manner -and I had nothing to drink at all that night-I woke the next morning-having to do our booth that day on the floor-feeling hung over. Again I hadn’t had a drink yet it felt like I had consumed too much Bourbon or Southern Comfort. I could barely drag myself to the show floor. Later things starting coming about Kava Kava’s effect on the liver which made perfect sense because this way of processing the herb was like nothing I’d experienced with any herb.

Anyway to get back to the “wax,” I asked the woman in the store how people use it. And she reached down into the case and showed me a glass pipe. I said, “that’s a crack pipe,” remembering what it was like when I lived in New York City during the 80s seeing the crack heads hanging out on Bowery or even near our own building in the East Village. “That’s what my mom said, ” she answered.

In fact broken, empty crack vials helped my wife and I get a settlement from the landlords trying to kick us out of our rent controlled apartment at the time. We were going to a city-mandated conference with the landlords- and I decided to take black and white photos of all the violations in the building-because B & W would make them look even worse-and I specifically photographed a number of spots where users had left their empty crack vials in the downstairs hallway and other areas of the building. It worked. They freaked out when we produced the pictures and we got a good settlement to move out. We went from Manhattan to Hoboken across the Hudson.

This is apparently  the direction-along with tinctures-that  a lot of consumption is moving towards these days-it’s not the old hippy joint passing times of old but designe- driven experiences of today-changing so many other retail endeavors .

What this small survey did for me was reaffirm the feeling I have that anyone who now works in the grocery industry or serves it in some fashion should be keeping an eye on the growing cannabis industry as it has many of the same needs for services you’re now providing.


 This shot is from a rest stop outside of Trinidad, CO.

Thanks for reading.


Last week while on a road trip to Boulder I had the chance to visit several cannabis shops in the state: Pueblo and two in Boulder-one of which is part of a 17 store chain owned by a company called Native Roots.

For the last 18 years, working on behalf of a magazine distributor serving upscale/specialty grocers around the country (think Whole Foods, Sprouts, Central Market in TX and others on this tier) -meeting with owners, vp’s and buyers-averaging 25 trips a year-  I not only lead our team in the process of getting a custom magazine program in place but also became heavily involved in visual merchandising/store layout and design for the stores we worked with via my involvement with the design of custom check stand fixtures.

So I took this  opportunity to compile some field notes about the cannabis retailers I saw, using the  experience I’d gained working with grocers-concentrating on store layout, visual merchandising, transactions and some of the products.

As far as the “products” go while I’ve tried some of the edibles and have some experience with the activated tinctures -which I  believe have great potential for many people (more in a later post) I was primarily interested in once again trying  the same cannabis infused topical pain cream someone had let me try over the last year.  I’ve found it to be a great way to alleviate muscle and joint pain -the things that develop from physical activity or the body otherwise experiencing naturally occurring pain.

While I didn’t see the same brand in any of the stores I visited- I did end up getting a look at a  couple of products made by Mary’s who makes a number of substances in this area of treatment.

The picture below is one that’s used via a gel-pen. You push up from the bottom and it dispenses the cream onto your skin. The company recommends application to areas like behind the knees-where the skin is thinner and your veins have an easier time absorbing the treatment.

A simple way to apply a cannabis treatment for minor pain.

A simple way to apply a cannabis treatment for minor pain.

The first  store I visited was the Marisol shop in Pueblo-located about 10 miles from interstate 25, in West Pueblo- an area filled with light manufacturing and other small businesses.

Exterior of the Marisol cannabis shop in Pueblo, CO

Exterior of the Marisol cannabis shop in Pueblo, CO

As you can see the exterior looks new. But the Marisol interior- as opposed to what a grocer-might have done-is spartan, utilitarian- I  recall seeing lots of pegboard too. The interior space had the feeling of a local business you might see in a small town in flyover country that died a slow death over the years.

Overhead schematic of Marisol

Standard operating procedure in the cannabis shops means upon entering you’re met by an employee who inspects your ID-making sure you and your ID is legit-21 and not expired.

In Marisol the initial contact was with a man who looked like he could be a bouncer or a Sons of Anarchy chapter member- not unexpected in a way as Pueblo’s demographics are… a little different than say Boulder’s.

Once past the guard, in this shop you’re directed towards a line queue-a bank line approach-where the front of the line is about 10 – 15 feet away from the counter where the person that will help you stands.

As far as the point of purchase goes, it consists of long, old fashioned looking-glass jewelry cases filled with some things associated with the main product-buds of different kinds of cannabis-located on shelves back behind the store associate-in this case two young women-serving the customers.

My experience with grocery stores had me examining their POP for impulse item possibilities. As it stands now-and maybe CO laws prevent it-there is nothing like magazines, confection or anything else grocers usually have in this zone.

Fixture idea for impulse sales at a POP with a straight counter.

Fixture idea for impulse sales at a POP with a straight counter.

 In the above example you can picture glass cases where the wooden counter is now. One thing that was strange-and again I don’t if laws prevented it being in front of the counter or not-was the fact a rack of magazines with  High Times, Cannabis Now and other cannabis orientated titles was some 10 feet away, behind the counter. Since no one could go back there and browse the titles I”m wondering if they were even trying to sell them. Is it prevented by law or is simply because the cannabis shops in general are mostly in a cottage industry mode and not particularly attuned to how to drive impulse sales.

Since each transaction is carried on in one to one fashion-one customer at time at the counter with the associate guiding and procuring the products- it seems like shrink would not be a problem if you offered magazines of course, edibles like some of the chocolates and the pain treatments.

From what I observed the transactions can take a while as people study product offerings. But another idea came to mind and that would a way of offering those who already know what they want-to order from either in line if it’s busy or maybe from an adjacent counter where-like you’ll see in some airport eating areas now or store- like 365-an IPad.

In this case you could do category headings for the different products and then just list the top three in each category-maybe some small description and allow those who had a clear idea of what they are looking for-to order ahead so when they came to the counter their order would be pulled and ready for purchase.

Although retail has entered a new world with cannabis shops, as the momentum builds for across the board legalization across the country this is an industry that demands many of the same kinds of services, procedures and manufacturing that others like the grocery use as well. It’s one that will not only generate money but jobs and services inline with what goes on in retail now.

Speaking about the Future what about drone deliveries of cannabis products? With the data Facebook, Amazon and Google have about the population it seems all that’s missing is a thumb print-like those TSA takes for it’s Known Traveler program-on file and then when the drone arrives with the goods-the shopper touches a screen on the drone-like your Apple phone-and the products are released from their hold in the drone.

The next post will look at two Boulder area stores.