Terrapin Care Station Dispensary Plants Roots in Longmont

Photo by Adam Steininger

Terrapin Care Station (TCS) became the first cannabis dispensary to open its doors in Longmont proper on November 19, 2018, and with over a month to settle in, they now enter the new year spreading deeper roots in the Longmont community.

Back in July of 2018, Terrapin was awarded one of four licenses to open a retail cannabis storefront in Longmont after city officials allowed for a new adult-use cannabis marketplace within municipal limits. The store operates out of a 3,500-square-foot space—a renovated former flower shop at 650 20th Avenue near 20th Avenue and Main Street.

“I can’t say enough about our Terrapin Care Station family. My staff’s professionalism allowed us to be the first to present Longmont consumers with access to recreational cannabis,” said Chris Woods, TCS founder, owner and president. “Terrapin looks forward to a positive and healthy relationship with the Longmont community. As we continue to plant local roots, we hope to forge a long-lasting partnership with our friends and neighbors.”

Founded in Boulder in 2009, TCS has been a neighbor to Longmont for almost a decade, now capitalizing on the unity between the two communities. TCS operates two retail locations in Boulder, two in Aurora, and one in Denver, but not every location is the same.

The Longmont store is unique because it has its own building—not sharing walls with other retailers—and the layout is much different from other locations with ample open space and rich lighting. It’s also decked out with a wagon-wheel chandelier and large wallpapered walls of train-related equipment.

It’s a typical cannabis store when you enter and walk to the front desk, but this store is more user-friendly, when you walk to the sales floor, you’re greeted by staff. If you know what you’re looking for, they walk you right to that. If you’re a first-timer, or you’re there just to be educated about products, they give you a whole tour of the store. It’s a one-on-one experience without the need to rush customers out the door like other establishments.

Most of their staff were promoted from within, but they made a conscious effort to reach out to the community of Longmont to hire as many local employees as possible. The Longmont TCS feels like they are still breaking new ground in the cannabis world, coming into moderately-sized towns like Longmont who didn’t initially jump into recreational sales immediately in 2012.

“Growing up, being into skateboarding, and music, and snowboarding, it’s always been part of the culture I’ve been in. Being in the state of Colorado where we’ve been able to legalize marijuana recreationally, it’s exciting to be part of history,” said Bradd Rigoni, Director of Store Operations at Terrapin Care Station in Longmont. “You can go over the state line and it’s still illegal. So, I feel like, yeah, we’re still at the forefront of the nation for the most part.”

Outside of his personal life, Rigoni doesn’t come from a cannabis background, but an extensive background in the retail sector. He came into the marijuana industry at the end of June 2018. Rigoni has had skateboard shops, worked for Urban Outfitters for many years, and oversaw other various retail stores, but most recently he came from a company called Chrome Industries which is a manufacturer of messenger bags, backpacks, cycling apparel and footwear.

Rigoni knows he’s still learning, but thinks he’s never going to stop learning in this industry, or even in most industries. For example, we’re still tweaking our alcohol laws in Colorado by putting full-strength beer in supermarkets and convenient stores.

“What you’re starting to see is this maturing and evolution of the industry, that the things that attracted us to it still remain,” said Peter Marcus, Communications Director for Terrapin Care Station. “But what we’re starting to do is hire folks that come from more traditional sides of the business sector. And I think what’s so exciting about being in the cannabis industry is watching it evolve and mature into this blossoming industry.”

As the first dispensary in Longmont proper, Terrapin Care Station can be taken as a sign that marijuana is starting to cross the political spectrum, so a community like Longmont that has had a history with a conservative leaning has had six years of watching the legalization experiment become successful. It can also be seen as something that is not a liberal or conservative thing, it’s just a thing that’s happening successfully, and it’s being regulated responsibly, and we’re seeing other communities like Longmont open their doors to it.

“The cities who originally may have been against it or just not ready for it as they’re seeing it evolve, they’re seeing what it does for the community, and that it’s not a bad thing in any way, shape, or form,” Rigoni said. “If anything, it’s a positive thing. So, now in the future, you’ll see more cities that may have said no to begin with kind of flipping that coin. I think we’ll see more and more of that.”

The marijuana industry is evolving. It’s one of the most competitive industries that exist, and Longmont has opened its doors to the rest of the competition in the state. Three more dispensaries plan to open up in Longmont proper, with other licenses for The Green Solution at 206 S. Main St, Yuma Way at 900 S. Hover St. Unit A, and The Medicine Man at 500 E. Rogers Road.

“It’s a very competitive market, and I guess I can say it like this: there are not a lot of industries where you can have ten of the exact same businesses in a very small proximity, and they’re all successful,” Rigoni said. “There’s no reason that we can’t all co-exist. In many regards, we probably do many different things. So, do I see a competitor, you know, us battling it out? No, I don’t see that ever happening.”

Terrapin tries to set itself apart by establishing its brand as the highest quality product but also the most affordable. They have carved themselves out a niche in this industry, especially with set national grow sites, which helped. The Colorado industry is most likely starting to level, and soon we could see too many dispensaries, and just through sheer free market forces, the market will correct itself. Companies that can’t make it are going to fold, which will balance it out. TCS has built a pocket, a niche within the industry.

“That kind of thing can’t last forever. It’s gonna plateau, and people who have done right by the community, and people who have earned the respect of their customers are the ones who will still be here,” Rigoni said.

As part of Terrapin’s commitment to Longmont, the company has pledged $100,000 to the local community in the form of $20,000 contributions to five local non-profit organizations. The nonprofits represent a range of causes that have a nexus to cannabis legalization, whether it’s restorative justice, the arts, helping with homeless outreach or advancing critical social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights. Terrapin has partnered with Centennial State Ballet, HOPE — Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, Longmont Community Justice Partnership, Out Boulder County and The Reentry Initiative.

“That was not a city requirement. They were smart, and the city made it known that they have a preference that cannabis companies should work with the local community and engage with them. It wasn’t necessarily a requirement. Terrapin has always been a philanthropic company. We’ve given about four hundred thousand dollars so far to various different nonprofits. That’s including Longmont,” Marcus said. “For us, it was just something we were gonna do. It wasn’t a requirement. While we’re doing the right thing to help these nonprofits, it also helps us to introduce ourselves to the community, and to be a good partner within the community.”

Longmont has been one of the best governments Terrapin has ever worked with when it comes to implementing marijuana policy. Longmont city council member Bonnie Finley and city managers were not just issuing licenses, but were at the ribbon cutting to develop relationships with the cannabis companies together as a community.

“They put it all out in front. We’re giving out four licenses. Opened it to a competitive process. The licensing was streamlined and efficient. I’m not just blowing smoke. I mean this. I think Longmont as a city had one of the most efficient licensing and regulation processes on the local level that we’ve seen yet in the counties in Colorado,” Marcus said. “And even nationally, ’cause we just put an application into New Jersey, we’re exploring options in Michigan. We’re seeing what other states are doing around it, and Longmont is ahead of the curve.”

Photo by Adam Steininger

Right now, in each TCS store, they’re accepting donations of canned goods and winter clothing which will all be donated to local nonprofits or local organizations, so if someone comes into the Longmont location donating a canned good or a piece of winter clothing, they’re offering a discount.

“Having the ability to donate all the thousands of dollars is incredible. But even on the smaller level, we’re trying to do everything we can, and that’s not just in Longmont, that’s in all of our stores that we’re giving the donation,” Rigoni said. “While you were in the waiting room today, someone came in with a handful of donations. They’re showing up, and it’s pretty awesome.”

In addition to community engagement, TCS’s Longmont store seeks a direct positive economic impact on the community. The 12 new Longmont jobs created by Terrapin, along with additional revenue generated for the city, goes toward Longmont’s economic development efforts. Their website also states if you bring in a receipt from any local Longmont business you will receive 10% off your purchase.

Their website has a breakdown of all their products, what the item is, and all the same information that’s on the product packages, including ingredients. Cannabis flower is roughly 50% of their business and when you walk onto their sales floor, the first thing anyone sees are flower buds in the first glass case. The biggest strain of all time at TCS stores is called Starkiller. Others that are popular are called The Queen, Princess Leia, Lemon G, Gorilla Glue, and Blue Durban to name a few.

“We also make a strain called The Wife’s Lemonade that is literally point six, seven percent THC,” Rigoni said. “So, we’re not just going with the heaviest stuff. Because there is a demand for people like us who don’t want to get the heavy stuff.”

Photo by Adam Steininger

They’re also seeing an increasing trend toward distillates, with more people apt to buy a vape cartridge or vape flower because it has become more casual to take a puff off a vape pen without an overwhelming aroma. Edibles are also a big part of the industry as well as disposable vape pens, which are convenient—for tourists especially.

“It’s also different in different markets because we still have a lot of people who come to Colorado, tourists, and this is brand new for them. They might want a little bit of everything, or they might come in and they’ve only, [having] grown up as a teenager in the 90s, only ever seen a flower. So, they’re wowed by a vape pen. They’re wowed by a candy,” Rigoni said.

One of the fastest growing demographics they’re seeing right now are older Americans—baby boomers who are entering retirement. They generally don’t want to get really stoned like younger Americans. Since older Americans are getting into legal cannabis, they’re starting to see more of a demand for micro-dosing or sublinguals—a 2.5 milligram lozenge that dissolves under the tongue with effects that are almost instantaneous. They also have mints as low as 0.5 milligrams and up to fifteen milligrams of CBD. Anybody who wants to get rest but doesn’t want to feel groggy when they wake up, they might find micro-dosing an option.

“I think there’s a lot of people from older generations who are so mind-blowingly intrigued by the fact that this has happened in their lifetime. The intrigue and just that alone, ‘Wow, this happened in my lifetime. We’re on the right side of history,’ brings people in,” Rigoni said. “They might just have forty questions and leave with something minimal, but they’re inquiring and they’re learning, and then they get to the point where they start trying the micro-dose. There’s something about having a label on there, too. Where it came from, what the ingredients are, what the percentage is, how potent it is.”

When a customer enters the Longmont TCS store, they’ll see products they’re curious about and their sales approach is all driven by the customer’s questions. The first question asked by an employee is, “What are you looking for today?” The customer usually asks, “What’s that? What’s this?” As they start to ask questions, the customer understands what they probably want, or if they don’t want this, and they don’t want this feeling. Then, that drives the conversation to make suggestions.

“When someone sees a bottle of cola and they realize that there’s THC in it, it’s a mind blower. Typically, it starts with someone who would come in and they hear that we sell packs of what we call Terrapins, which are pre-rolled joints, and as they’re walking through the store, the bud tender’s letting them know, ‘We have edibles. We have patches. Colas. Literally everything.’ And that’s where the interest comes in is, [when] they see a wall of candy and cola and just stuff you’ve never imagined could be CBD, and then their interest has piqued,” Rigoni said.

A repeat customer could build a rapport and request a certain bud tender who’s their go-to person, they could establish a back and forth relationship where they already know likes and dislikes. That’s when their suggestions become deeper and they’ll say, “Hey, this is new. Have you tried this?”

Terrapin is a vertically integrated business who grows and supplies their own stores. They have their own lab and make all of their own concentrates under the trade name Double Bear, but they do have some longstanding relationships with businesses like Keef Cola, Willy’s Reserve, Wana Brands, and some others. Concentrates account for some 20 percent of sales at their Longmont store.

When it comes to edibles, the cannabis industry works intimately with the state on getting the ‘start low, go slow’ approach out there in order to caution people to consume responsibly, and TCS has pamphlets that promote that. Bud tenders reiterate to customers at point-of-sale to start low, go slow and to be careful about dosing and timing with edibles. With less and less overdoses in the news, and newer micro-dose portions of 2.5 milligrams, it seems with this approach, people are receiving the start low, go slow message.

“If a customer comes in and they’re interested in edibles, it starts with educating them right on the spot as far as, if this is your first time, what would be a proper amount to try? Is it a full CBD edible? We may suggest a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, so it’s less intense of an experience,” Rigoni said. “I would hate for someone to come in and say that they had a bad experience. When you come in, you’re being educated enough to not have a bad experience. In no way, shape, or form do any of our bud tenders want someone to have a bad experience, nor would they recommend a dosage that is higher than someone should take for their first time.”

When it comes to marijuana recalls, the steps are specifically guided by the state of Colorado. The government contacts the producer if they find something wrong (usually having to do with a pesticide), then they notify everybody who the producer supplied to, and then that’s when TCS would pull it from their shelves.

“Terrapin Care Station to me, the emphasis on the word care is important because, first and foremost, we care about our people,” Rigoni said. “We obviously care a great deal about cannabis. We care about our customers, and we care about the community.”

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Adam received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Writing from the University of Colorado Denver. He’s written for such publications as the Westword, his own weight loss blog, Big Pig’s Feet, and the former CU Denver student-ran weekly, The Advocate. Adam moved to Longmont in 1994 as a bumbling daydreaming teenager and has now made it to adulthood in the upright position. He rendezvoused abroad in Denver for several years only to return to good ol’ Longtown to make waves as a volunteer writer for the Longmont Observer. He’s also a filthy penny-rich fiction writer, general information hound, barely related to Ed McMahon, and loves to name drop.


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