Competition Heats Up
Co - Neither his customers nor Jonny Radding spend much time in the waiting room.
People want their privacy when they wait to pick up their medicine. They don't want to sit here next to strange people in a strange place.
“It's a spot where people feel uncomfortable," said the owner of Durango Organics and Wellness Center, on a tour of his shiny new business, located in two office suites in the old Bula building in Bodo Industrial Park.
Radding wasn't referring to the room where his medical marijuana customers are asked to wait - a tastefully appointed slate-tiled space, with a water cooler and high ceiling and a bold forest-green logo painted on the wall.
He was referring to the act.
“People want their privacy when they wait to pick up their medicine," Radding said. “They don't want to sit here next to strange people in a strange place."
When a customer arrives, Radding tells him, “If there's anything here that makes you feel uncomfortable, that's not our intention." And when the customer leaves, “We'd love to have you back."
It's obvious from their business cards and marketing that Durango Organics is concerned with appearing polished. Radding, a licensed real estate agent, said that's to survive in a competitive marketplace.
“I'm going to be 38 next month," Radding said. “If I would have started this business at 25, there might be (Grateful) Dead posters on the wall and stuff like that. But I'm a grown man; I decorated this like I'd decorate my house."
Marijuana dispensaries outnumber brewpubs and bike shops in Durango and are on track to overtake liquor stores.
As of Friday, seven dispensaries were licensed with the city, three applications were pending, and several county residents were acting as “private caregivers," selling and delivering full-time to patients.
The sellers described months of brisk business and plans of expanding. Many of those plans involve the standard wellness fare: acupuncturists, masseuses, classes, local food. They all say business is good.
Two of Durango's dispensaries were established by owners from the Front Range. The five others are locally owned. The owners, primarily men in their 30s and 40s, come from careers in agriculture, real estate, law and business.
Durango attorney Stu Prall said one of his clients with an application pending to start “Dream Green" in Bodo Park plans to move here from Iowa.
The most recent patient numbers for La Plata County from the state health department are more than 7 months old. But as of September 2009, 166 patients were registered in the county.
State health department spokesman Mark Salley said the number is likely much higher today.
“We continue to receive about a thousand pieces of mail a day," Salley said last week.
Of those, he estimated about half are completed application packets for marijuana cards, 200 are incomplete applications and about 300 are renewal applications or change-of-address notifications.
He estimated that at the end of February, there were 63,000 card-holding medical marijuana patients in Colorado.
A year ago, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal funds no longer would go to prosecute people whose actions are in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws approving the medical use of marijuana."
Between that announcement and when the city passed a 60-day moratorium in October, three dispensaries set up shop. Later that month, the city passed an ordinance regulating dispensaries, requiring background checks for owners and instituting operating rules and security requirements.
“There's been no real stigma from the community or the police or fire department," said Chris Rezek, owner of Medical Horticultural Services LLC, a grow center/dispensary without a storefront located in west Durango. “They've been wonderful. The general public has been great."
On Tuesday, voters in Fruita approved taxing marijuana sales in the city, the first Colorado city to do so.
Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney said the idea was to be ready if dispensaries ever took to Fruita like they had in Grand Junction and unincorporated Mesa County, where just fewer than forty dispensaries already were operating.
While Durango Organic enjoyed a steady stream of customers last Monday, things were quieter across town at Durango Wellness.
Located in the Crossroads Building in downtown, Durango Wellness opened last month. After four weeks in business, Monday's sales seemed slow, said the owners. Co-owner Sarah Hill said she could tell the grand opening of Durango Organics was siphoning a bit of her sales, if only temporarily.
“I can't help but think that it's a good thing," she said. “Because there's obviously a demand for this in town, and businesses fold if the market doesn't support them."
Prall, who represents several Durango dispensaries and providers, said the competition already has been paying off for patients.
“I'm seeing prices go down a little bit," he said.
Durango Organic trumpeted its arrival with a slew of print ads and a marketing first for Durango: a promotion of 1 free gram to the first 50 people. More than 3 ounces of marijuana were given away over two days.
Radding literally was running around at times Monday, greeting customers and putting out figurative fires in the gutted back rooms of Durango Organic's office space.
“This is nothing compared to selling houses," he said.
NewsHawk: User: http://www.420magazine.com/
Author: Garrett Andrews
Copyright: 2010 The Durango Herald
Contact: The Durango Herald
Website: Durango Herald News, Competition heats up
• Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article