When I was in high school, I used to get my hair cut at a Korean-owned hair salon called Vicky’s. It was cheap and the staffers did a decent enough job. Nothing fancy, though; they pretty much used an electric razor for everything. But the part I remember most was the trash-talk shows that played there. Jerry Springer was on seemingly 24-7 back in those heady days of the late ‘90s, and a trip to Vicky’s meant that I would get to sit back and watch angry baby mamas and secret lovers fight it out while getting cleaned up.
It’s been years since I’ve been there or even thought about the place. But Denco – even without the smiling Korean women, salon chairs and strange acrylic smells – gave me flashbacks to those passable “four on the bottom and six on the top” haircuts back in the day.
Denco Alternative Medicine
3460 Park Avenue West
Denver, CO 80216
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Raw marijuana price range: $20-$30/eighth-ounce, $120/ounce.
Raw marijuana price range (non-members): $20-$35/eighth-ounce, $140/ounce.
Raw marijuana price range (recreational): $40-$55/eighth-ounce, $200/ounce.
Other types of medicine: edibles, O-pen refils
Online menu? No.
Recreational sales? Yes.
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Denco sounds like an ambiguously named paper-supply company or temp agency. I know because I’ve often sat in traffic on Park Avenue, seen the sign and thought about what business it could possibly be. "Medical dispensary" was never on my radar. Seriously. The sign is weed-green, though, which is pretty much a dead giveaway at this point. Still, the shop hides out in plain sight: .The storefront doesn't look like much at all and blends in with the Starbucks and floral-arrangement business in the center near it.
I parked at the Starbucks and walked in with one of the Denco employees, a shorter woman in her twenties carrying a bag of food. She nodded at the one-way-tinted window and was buzzed through the security door to my right. I handed over my medical card and ID to the woman stationed there and was soon directed to the waiting-room couches. And that’s when the flashback hit me. The three ladies in the front office were chatting it up and talking about lunch while I waited and watched (for the first time in years) an “I got your sister pregnant” daytime talk show.
Denco's space is big — big enough for two Vicky’s salons and her half-dozen chairs. But most of the interior is open and blank. A massive Denco graffiti mural takes up one entire wall, with random Broncos logos and Elway posters on others. But I couldn’t avoid getting sucked into Maury Povich's show, probably because it was booming around the empty, chasm-like building. And let’s face it: Trash television is so horribly catchy. It’s like watching a slow-motion train wreck up close and personal. One of the employees was even drawn to the area to see what the shouting and yelling was about, as I sat transfixed.
Eventually, my budtender came out to get me. I figured the big space, somewhat obscured from the waiting area by a wall, was for patients, but my budtender led back to a tiny meds room the size of a studio-apartment kitchen. Inside was a glass display cabinet with some Dixie bottles, a few candy edibles and a dozen or so strains in clear glass jars covered with labels on the front. A small whiteboard behind the girl budtending had the pricing: $140 an ounce for non-member patients and $120 for members. Eighths run $20 to $30. Cheap. Just like a Vicky’s haircut.
Strains included a Venom OG that stunk up the room and an eggplant-colored batch of Purple that smelled like grape jelly. But nearly everything looked wispy and airy, like it had been cut a few weeks too soon. Which is a shame, really, because some of the strains gave off amazing odors. The Afgoo, in particular, was berry-sweet, with a fruit-punch flavor to the nose upon first sniff. That strain's buds were plump little marbles; they were actually my second choice to bring home. The shop doesn’t split up bags under a quarter, though, so trying multiple strains on a budget isn’t doable. Things were okay, but at the time, I couldn’t justify springing for a quarter-ounce based on what I saw, either. So I went with the Venom OG, and was reminded that looks can be deceiving.
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While the Venom OG buds looked lanky, they were pungent, with a rubbery gasoline/lemon spice that nearly got me high itself. The flavor was there as well, and the sticky-tacky buds smoked down to a fine white ash. The potency was at rocket-fuel level – very peppy and energetic, like two or three cups of coffee. I haven’t had much nausea lately, although hunger is still something I battle. But after a bowl of the Venom OG, I bounced around the house, growing increasingly hungrier while making polenta fries and breaded pork chops out of the blue. It eliminated the stresses of the day, and by the time I was finished cooking the meal, I was ready to destroy it like Godzilla in Tokyo and go back for seconds. At $30 an eighth/$120 an ounce with tax included, the buds really weren’t as bad of a deal as I initially thought when I walked out of the shop. They weren’t going to win any awards, but they were cheap and did a decent enough job. I could have brought home a few other strains and likely been just as pleased.
Which is to say, pleased enough, but not so much so that I’m headed back for more.
I don’t go to Vicky’s anymore. I’m not even sure if it’s around. Instead, I opt to go a friend’s frou-frou Highland salon and have her cut my hair. Just the same, Denco will probably fade into the background of my mind, as there are other shops I’d probably visit before it. I'll probably remember it only occasionally — like when I see people screaming on daytime talk shows.