High Country: Andrew Wickes opens the doors to The Snowmass Dispensary
After a five-year journey, the Sundance Liquor & Gifts family legacy expands into cannabis retail.
The ambiguous designation of “longtime local” around here is a badge of honor for many, but few families can claim a status that spans 43 years.
As operational manager of Sundance Liquor & Gifts, the beloved Snowmass Town Center store his parents Barbara and Steve opened in 1979, Andrew Wickes is leading a new business legacy in the Colorado cannabis industry.
With a soft opening on Dec. 21, 2021 — just three months after Wickes signed a lease on the second floor space adjacent to Sundance, which needed a full build-out — The Snowmass Dispensary is officially up and running. The cannabis store marks the second adult-use retail license the Town of Snowmass Village has issued since lifting its notorious marijuana moratorium.
But Wickes has been a vocal and involved advocate from the beginning; over the past five years, he’s regularly attended Town Council meetings and commented in development discussions. Although he initially applied, the title of Snowmass’ first-ever dispensary was granted to High Q, which has been successfully operating on the upper level of the Snowmass Mall since 2019.
On a recent morning errand run (I’m a Snowmass Village resident and couldn’t be happier that I can now stock up on groceries, wine and weed all in one stop), I swung by The Snowmass Dispensary, where I took a tour and a seat at the cannabis counter to catch up with Wickes.
Katie Shapiro: Congratulations are obviously in order. How do you feel now that you’ve finally come full circle in cannabis?
Andrew Wickes: (After Colorado first legalized cannabis), it just didn’t really make sense that Snowmass wasn’t open at all to offering (sales) as a service, which is why I wanted to be a part of the movement early on. It was definitely an interesting process — watching it unfold at the (Town) Council level, hearing the negative concerns and learning why there was pushback. But having our liquor store downstairs, we were sending people to Aspen or downvalley all the time (for cannabis) — it’s a big part of the Colorado experience for a lot of visitors. Renee (Grossman) at High Q did a great job showing (the Town of Snowmass Village), “Hey, look, we can run these establishments in Snowmass, and it’s not going to ruin anyone’s family fun.” It is something that most visitors and locals want access to in their towns. It’s why (Coloradans) voted for it in the first place.
Shapiro: Since The Snowmass Dispensary is a retailer only, where do you source your flower?
Wickes: Because we’re not directly affiliated (with) growing, the idea is that we’re always going to be a farmer’s market type of concept, where we’re always in search of the freshest flower from best organic cultivators in Colorado. For our initial supply, we are working exclusively with four growers: the local guys at Silverpeak, the award-winners at Bloom County, Denver’s Mighty Tree and lastly, Boulder Built.
Shapiro: The store has such an epic view of Snowmass Mountain — and I’ve never seen a counter service concept like this before. How did you decide to incorporate this into the design?
The Snowmass Dispensary
16 Kearns Rd., Suite 202 (2nd floor), Snowmass Town Center
970-452-2167 | smvdispensary.com
Hours: Monday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
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Wickes: We wanted to have two separate counters — one for one-on-one consultations and one for express service (advance ordering online is coming soon). We want our customers to feel comfortable asking as many questions as they have about cannabis, and they can set up an appointment through our website with one of our “connoisseurs.”
Shapiro: How did you approach staffing?
Wickes: Our timeline was a little absurd — we had to complete both state and local licensing, order inventory and make hires in three months. We have eight employees right now and two more who are sort of flex between (here and Sundance), and everyone is legit a mega expert with decades of combined experience from other dispensaries in Aspen and the (Roaring Fork) Valley. Going through the whole process, we couldn’t have done it without this great team and a lot of people that worked with us and for us — whether it’s been the landlords, my family’s support or our staff. It’s been such a long road, and it’s just amazing to be at the point where we’re actually operational.
Shapiro: What else sets The Snowmass Dispensary apart?
Wickes: We strive to provide an approachable way for people to browse cannabis products, whether you’re an expert looking for “double black diamond” level potency or totally new to it and want to start with microdosing or (nonintoxicating) wellness products. We also carry leading brands like Xiaolin, Willie’s Reserve, 1906, Wyld, Mary’s Medicinals, etc. — and just like at Sundance, if you need a quick gift or gear, we are building on our boutique section with accessories from Volcano, Higher Standards, Malin+Goetz, Carta and more. We’ll also have a loyalty program that our locals love downstairs, but instead of a punch card, it’ll be through (our point of sale) Flowhub to earn points and rewards. Honestly, after being a part of this conversation for so many years, we are proud to be The Snowmass Dispensary — our plan isn’t to build a bunch of stores around the state. It’s cool to be the little guys and be doing the only thing I know, which is family-owned, local retail. This is home, and I definitely want to be a part of this valley forever.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.