The Pueblo West View

Retailer readies for pot’s big day

Owner of two shops prepares for historic moment Wednesday

Hank Borunda’s business background doesn’t read like most.

As a youth he sold pinon nuts on Pueblo street corners. The son of an antique dealer, Borunda spent many a weekend with his father at flea markets, yard, garage and estate sales.

“I was a teenager selling pinon on the corner of Northern (Avenue),” Borunda said. “If you can sell stuff at a flea market, you can sell anywhere.”

Today, at 25, Borunda owns two medical marijuana dispensaries — The Greener Side located at Stem Beach and a newer location in Pueblo West, 749 E. Enterprise Drive.

“I didn’t think college was right for me. I didn’t think it would teach me anything I didn’t already know, and I didn’t want to get into debt,” Borunda said. “My dad has been telling me since I was young ‘Don’t work for anyone.’ ’’

A medical marijuana card carrier and provider since 2008, Borunda opened his dispensary in 2010.

Today, Borunda says his business sees “steady” and “healthy” revenues.

“It still took a long time to make money in this business,” Borunda said, remembering his days as the shop’s sole gardener, laborer, accountant and business manager.

Today, Borunda employs seven regular workers (at harvest time he hires upward of 20 trimmers) and his future plans include adding several greenhouses to both of his locations, one he calls “the Cadillac of greenhouses” and first of its kind in the state.

He’s transformed the Stem Beach location — known for its large rooftop brontosaurus statue — from a “rat infested” house to a clean, stylish and cool operation with graffiti on the interior walls.

The Greener Side West location is swanky, featuring leather couches and televisions.

Like many dispensary owners in the state preparing to transition to the historical retail pot industry, Borunda sees promising growth on the horizon.

He envisions his future business like a vineyard — opening greenhouses to guided tours, product showrooms and possibly a place where customers can sample the goods.

Talk of that plan comes with memories of a trip he took to the 2008 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.

“I saw that and I was like, ‘Wow, that needs to happen in the states.’ ’’

But with the possibilities and excitement comes worry. Recreational pot is now legal in Colorado and Washington but it remains illegal under federal law.

“It’s nerve-racking,” he said. “The federal government is kind of an issue, but they’ve made it known they’ll leave you alone, so you just have to do everything right.”

Yet the retail industry poses unknowns.

“I really don’t know how the recreational is going to work,” said Borunda, who also will keep medical marijuana licenses. “Marijuana always has a stigma.

“There’s still a lot of people who don’t believe in it. I do. It truly has a place in the medical field and it does no harm to them.”

Not long after that statement an older couple, new Pueblo County residents by way of California, walk into the shop asking about the state’s new laws. The woman has cerebral palsy.

After they leave, Borunda said: “We have more of that clientele than the younger crowd.”

“We pop seeds every now and then, but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” he said. “I’ve taken my share of losses. It’s trial by error.”

Now, time will tell what seeds this new era of marijuana will sow.

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The Pueblo West View