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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Photos: Are Denver’s 88 Pot Shops as Inviting as Their Merchandise?

Whether utilitarian, spiritual or aesthetic in style, Denver's marijuana businesses are unlikely to win too many style awards just yet.

3 Substance

Six months into Colorado’s pioneering voyage into the brave new world of legal cannabis, business in Denver, home to the majority of the state’s pot shops, is brisk but not brilliant. Numbers are in for the first four months of 2014, and they show that total sales topped $202 million, with medical marijuana sales almost double recreational sales, $133 million and $69.5 million, respectively.

 Photo via

The Tetra Hydro Center (Utilitarian Type) Photos via

With two months of numbers yet to be crunched, recreational sales look unlikely to come anywhere near the $190 million predicted by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Still, the number of businesses selling marijuana in Denver jumped from 18 on January 1 to 88 on July 1. The city council has put a lid on new businesses until 2016, so for now only existing medical pot dispensaries can branch out into recreational sales—and only on separate sides of a dividing wall.

Walking Raven

Walking Raven (Spiritual Type)

To mark the six-month mark, the Toke of the Town website published a photo gallery of the 88 shops. It’s hard to generalize about the looks and names of this new business niche except to say that like the sales numbers, they are not brilliant. Most would not even pass for smart. Some are sleek, glassy and spa-like in trendy neighborhoods; others, squat, windowless and somewhat sinister-looking cinderblock boxes along industrial strips. There are longtime, well-known medical marijuana sellers, and storefronts that look like they opened yesterday and may close tomorrow.

Star Buds (Aesthetic Type)

Starbuds (Aesthetic Type)

The local medical-marijuana community was created by earnest activists, who are, if anything, anti-branding. From that perspective, the emerging trend is definitely upward. Consider the names, which can be classified by type:

1. The Utilitarian Type (professional, medical): for example, Colorado Wellness, the Tetra Hydro Center and LivWell;

2. The Aesthetic Type (hippy, hipster): for example, Sticky Buds, Starbuds and DANK;

3. The Non-Judeo-Christian Religious Type (Buddhist, Native American): for example, Sacred Seed, Walking Raven and Native Roots.

(A fourth type, perhaps a subtype of 2., is the mock-Dutch, as in the New Broadsterdam and the Amsterdam Café.)

No shop would win many “Best Branding” prizes. But the “Most Branding” award would probably go to the Denver Kush Club, a medical-recreational venue dating back to 2009, which sells enough flowers, edibles, concentrates, vaporizers and “gear”—tees, sweats, etc.—to turn you into a walking advertisement.

Be that as it may, it’s the quality of the marijuana that matters. For that information, turn to William Breathes’ long-running and consummate reviews in Westword, Denver’s alternative weekly.


Gear for sale at the Denver Kush Club Photo via

Gear for sale at the Denver Kush Club Photo via