RIDGWAY – For quite a few years, the log building that housed Re/Max Realty in Ridgway, sat empty. Now, it’s come back to life with the color of fresh fruits and vegetables, with a gallery of oil paintings by Greg Hunger, with jams and juices from Hotchkiss, and with what fruit stand manager Tamara Bosie calls “the Munchies Room.”
She’s serious. All of this new activity near the intersection of Highways 550 and 62 is happening thanks to Chris and Beverly Sanchez, who also own the Acme Healing Center medical marijuana dispensary in the north corner of the building.
The snacks and juices in the Munchies Room will undoubtedly prove a welcome temptation for dispensary clients. It is also designed to serve the drop-in needs of the traveling public. “We hope to provide for locals and tourists both,” said Bosie on Monday, during the multi-faceted enterprise’s grand opening.
Sanchez, who also owns and operates the only approved marijuana grow operation in Ouray County, just south of Ridgway, took out a lease on the former real estate building for his dispensary and realized he wanted, indeed needed, to put the entire building to work. Having grown up in Gilroy, Calif., the self-proclaimed “Garlic Capital of the World,” in a family involved in the transport and warehousing of fresh produce, “He grew up around fruits stands,” Bosie said. “He decided to put that deep knowledge to work here.”
For now, the produce filling the bins outside on the porch is coming from a distributor in Denver, most of it grown in California and Mexico, Bosie said. “But come harvest season, we’re hoping to have lots of local fruits and veggies: Green River melons, Hotchkiss apples, Olathe sweet corn, Palisade peaches.”
There is already a room inside (Bosie calls it the “Special Room”) devoted to regional, mostly Hotchkiss-prepared foods. (The Sanchez family lives in Hotchkiss, on the North Fork of the Gunnison, as did Bosie before she moved to Ridgway last fall.) There are jams and jellies from Fire Mountain Fruit, honey from Montrose, and packaged juices and applesauce from Leroux Creek Farms.
The great room of the former real estate office is now “The Gallery.” Large oil paintings – fishing eagles and desert canyons – by Elk Meadows artist Greg Hunger cover the walls. Prints and some originals are for sale. Hunger’s daughter, Brooke, is a manager of the dispensary business.
The Sanchez entrepreneurial reach extends to dispensaries in Crested Butte and Durango as well. He has told the Ridgway Town Council and the Ouray Board of County Commissioners that he would like to expand his grow operation when and if state regulation of recreational marijuana is successfully adopted.
Meanwhile, the business of fresh fruit will suffice. And the allure of the “Munchies Room.”
The Old West Fruit Stand is open seven days a week at 157 U.S. Hwy 550, next door to Ridgway Outdoor Experience.