Retailer Spotlight Series: Scott Sparks of Vermont Hempicurean
We are thrilled to feature Scott Sparks, Owner of Vermont Hempicurean, in our newest Spotlight Series Feature. Scott is incredibly thoughtful about the brands he carries, and he puts a really heavy focus on supporting local, small business. Stepping inside the beautiful store, it’s easy to spend hours looking through the selection and talking to the friendly staff about the options. Located in Brattleboro, Vermont which is close to the MA border, this store is the perfect spot to stop at if you are on your way into or out of Vermont. For those local to the store who have yet to go yet – this may be your new favorite store to visit!
Q: For those who don’t know you, please tell us a bit about yourself and your background? How about in the cannabis/hemp space?
I worked in food-service my entire life, with the 30 years prior to opening the store spent in food service sales management. I even spent a few years working in restaurants in Newburyport, including running a vegetarian lunch counter there back in the early 80’s. My last job was VP of Sales for a local Vermont distributor. We partnered with local produce farmers, cheese makers, value added producers, and beef, pork, and lamb farmers to bring their products to restaurants, institutions, and retail stores in New England. Connecting the farmers to the end user was very rewarding.
This local company was purchased by a multi-billion dollar corporation and I decided it was time to move on. One day I turned to a co-worker and asked him if he wanted to open a hemp store with me. His face lit up. Later that afternoon I received a spam email, on my work email, inviting me to the Northern Colorado Hemp Expo. I took it as a message and bought 2 VIP tickets to go check this CBD thing out. I was blown away by what I experienced there and within a year of returning home I opened the store.
Q: We love having our products at such a wonderful store amongst such an incredible selection of local brands. Please tell us about your mission with Vermont Hempicurean? What makes your beautiful store so unique?
Our Mission Statement “Our goal is to enlighten and engage people in the potential of hemp solutions for ourselves, and our shared planet. In doing so, we hope to facilitate a new market that allows rural farmers to prosper, and our communities to reap the benefits of hemp. We have curated a collection of high quality Vermont CBD products in one location to enable you to find the perfect solution for your needs. Keeping it local and “Simply Hemp”. We pride ourselves on representing what we feel are the finest local brands available and consulting with our customers to find the right product for them. Every year we visit our farmers just before hemp harvest to help us build relationships and see exactly where the CBD comes from and how it is processed. These field trips have been invaluable to our knowledge base and our customers love knowing we do this. We have a rotating slide show of our visits in our store for customers to see.
One thing we do that is different than many other shops is we allow our customers to live test all the products we sell. This takes a lot of time, and adds some cost, but the end result is people being confident in what they purchase as they have tried it first.
Q: What has been your experience being involved in the Vermont hemp economy? In what ways have you seen it grow?
I had no model to go on when I created my business. It may seem odd now, but having a CBD store was a unique idea in early 2017. There were dispensaries and legal cannabis stores in states that allowed them, but I was hard pressed to find a store that specialized in CBD. I attended the first ever Heady Vermont meeting that took place above Skinny Pancake in Burlington, VT. There were about 30 people in attendance and a panel of 3 people and moderator Monica Donovan made 4. I am actually member #2 as Monica is #1.
When I first opened the store, there were not enough Vermont produced CBD products to fill my two original cases. I filled in with products from Colorado…and some fancy rocks. Today I have added four more cases and unfortunately, I have to turn people down who want me to sell their products. There has to be something unique for me to bring a new product in. It could be as simple as good branding, a different carrier oil, a significant amount of CBD in one container, an excellent price point, or a new to market product. The local COOP had a few national branded bottles in the bottom corner of a case when I opened but now they have a large case on center stage in the health and wellness section of the store. One of the dispensaries opened a drive thru CBD store in town and every gas station and hardware store now seems to be selling it.
This year it seems like a gold rush. Everyone decided to grow hemp thinking they would make instant millions. They had no buyer or business plan and unfortunately just thought someone would wave dollar bills in their face. I have to turn down people every day trying to sell me flower as I already buy from about 7 farms and cannot support any more. The biggest issue by far is credit card processing. I have gone through four processors in less than two years and am about to start my fifth one. The instability is very stressful and costly. In fact, anything a normal business would do is much more costly and you are usually told no and have to find a way to make it work.
Q: How do you incorporate CBD into your every day life?
I find CBD most valuable for aches and pains and when the stress of owning a business makes sleeping difficult, a dose of CBD does the job.
Q: How have THR products worked in your customers’ lives?
We have lots of fans of the lemon ginger salve and people rave about the lip balms as well. We have regulars who use the salve for everything from simple pain to neuropathy. They love the aroma and texture.
Q: What is your favorite THR product? What product do customers gravitate most to?
Probably the lip balms. They taste great and don’t feel greasy. I would say the lemon ginger salve is the fan favorite.
Q: What about your business inspires you?
Hearing stories every day from people who have found relief with CBD. When people first come in they often want to tell us their story. Some of them are hard to hear as they include trauma or painful injuries and health issues. One story in particular comes to mind where a young woman used to come into our store with a walker from a debilitating genetic illness. She bought some of our strongest CBD tincture and salve. We watched as she went from walker, to cane, to KT tape, to today bouncing around like any normal 21 year old. I have had grown men in tears telling me how CBD has relieved their pain and freed them to enjoy life more. So many pet stories too. Every day we hear about dogs and cats getting more enjoyment out of their lives due to less pain and anxiety after consuming CBD.
Q: Where can others connect with you, where can they find you?
Store location: 8 Flat Street, Brattleboro, VT
Posted on January 17, 2020