A farm town of just over 7,000 residents about an hour north of Denver, Milliken probably doesn't come to mind when you think of pot tourism beacons. But that's exactly what Nature’s Herbs and Wellness wants to achieve with its new cannabis compound.
Dubbed the “marijuana church” by locals, the three-story, 10,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open on January 23, and the setup will be similar to that a craft brewery, with a recreational dispensary as well as a marijuana extraction and infusion facility, which customers can check out from viewing windows as they shop.
“It’s larger than what this neighborhood would warrant, but I feel like it’s going to draw people in from all over,” explains John Rotherham, who owns Nature’s Herbs and Wellness with his wife, Alicia.
The Rotherhams tasked Denver firm Studio K2 Architecture with designing a monumental building to host their dispensary — something they call “the Taj Mahal of dispensaries."
“I want it to be awe. Everywhere you look, you’re in awe,” Alicia says. "We wanted to make something that was a destination more than your average dispensary.”
A 3,500-square-foot retail area occupies the building's second floor, with a marijuana processing facility complete with an industrial kitchen and a butane extractor on the first floor. Sections of glass flooring allow visitors to watch edibles and concentrate production in the facility below, with signs explaining each step of the manufacturing process.
“We encourage you to come right in, walk around and look at the extraction. I mean, how many people have seen a $250,000 extraction machine?” John asks.
Fourteen point-of-sale stations sit waiting for new customers in 2021. But how will a small town support such a large operation? On top of being the only pot shop in town, Milliken is just one of two municipalities in Weld County (Garden City being the other) that has recreational dispensaries; Greeley, also devoid of dispensaries, is just 25 minutes away.
The Rotherhams say the project should bring around 25 new jobs to Milliken, adding that the Milliken City Council actually contacted them about bringing recreational marijuana sales to town a few years ago — but the dispensary may need to keep working for more local public acceptance. Milliken voters tend to line up with Weld County's conservative views, and in 2015 rejected a measure that would have allowed dispensaries. However, that decision was overruled in 2017 by the Milliken City Council.
“As things have evolved over the years, people are coming out [to shop at dispensaries] more, and towns are reaching out because of the revenue,” Alicia says.
The town eventually issued one dispensary license in 2017, which was awarded to Nature’s Herbs and Wellness. Although the Rotherhams initially hoped to open the newest location in the summer of 2020, delays related to the coronavirus pandemic pushed the launch date into 2021.
”We’ve been in the business since 2010, so we’ve been through the highs and lows, the changes, and everything that’s come with the industry,” Alicia adds.
Before starting Nature’s Herbs and Wellness, the Rotherhams ran two independent grocery stores, both named Quality Market, in Fort Lupton and Dacono. Although their two grocery stores closed by 2003, they believe that experience has fueled their success in commercial marijuana. In addition to their five Nature's Herbs locations, the couple owns three High Plainz Strains and Dispensary storefronts, another three dispensaries under the name Altitude Wellness Center, and an edibles brand, Nature’s Kitchen, all of which are in Colorado.
Nature's Kitchen is available at all of the Rotherhams' stores, hence the large manufacturing facility under the Milliken dispensary. And with Colorado marijuana hospitality laws now allowing towns and counties to approve social consumption businesses, Nature's Herbs isn't ruling out a tasting-room experience in the distant future, either — though that requires several more levels of City Council approval and is too far away to be a priority for now.
There are concrete plans to install a drive-thru window to serve to-go orders, though, in case the line into the Taj Mahal of marijuana looks too long.
The new Nature's Herbs and Wellness dispensary and processing facility, located at 3220 Center Drive in Milliken, opens to the public on Saturday, January 23.
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