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San Antonio’s CBD king and queen talk growth

David and Nancy Burrow, with son Carter, 6, at the Alamo Botanicals location off Huebner Road.

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David and Nancy Burrow, both 34, pose with their son, Carter, 6, at the Alamo Botanicals location off Huebner Road, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. The business started in 2017 with the Stone Oak location and has since opened three other locations, including one in New Braunfels.

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Owner David Burrow, 34, left, and Cheryl Merlock, 54, help a customer last week at one of the business’s four locations.

Jerry Lara /Staff photographer Show More Show Less

Alamo Botanicals owner Nancy Burrow, 34, holds one of their most popular product at the company’s location off Huebner Road, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. The business started in 2017 with the Stone Oak location and has since opened three other locations, including one in New Braunfels.

Jerry Lara, Staff / San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

Products for pets are also available at Alamo Botanicals, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. The company started by David and Nancy Burrow specializes in hemp-derived products for humans and pets. It has grown from one location in the Stone Oak area in 2017 to four, including one in New Braunfels.

Jerry Lara, Staff / San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

David Burrow, 34, talks about the success of his business, Alamo Botanicals, during an interview at the location off Huebner Road, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. The company specializes in hemp-derived products. It has grown from one location in the Stone Oak area in 2017 to four, including one in New Braunfels.

Jerry Lara, Staff / San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

From their clean, well-lit boutiques around San Antonio, Nancy and David Burrow and their team sell all sorts of cannabidiol and hemp products.

They’re the founders of Alamo Botanicals, Texas’ first CBD store, and they’re on a mission to break down stigmas and educate people about the benefits of the compound derived from the cannabis plant.

CBD advocates say it helps soothe a range of ailments, including anxiety, stress, pain, insomnia, arthritis, seizures, gut disorders and skin disease. Several studies are looking at the compound’s anti-cancer properties.

And the Burrows, both 34, have countless testimonies and examples of how CBD is helping people.

They opened their first store in 2017 — before the 2018 farm bill that legalized hemp — and now they have three in San Antonio and one in New Braunfels. They also operate a 3,000-square-foot growing and manufacturing facility near the South Texas Medical Center.

Beyond growing plants, manufacturing and retail, Alamo Botanicals is growing its footprint with wholesale, distribution, custom formulations, private labeling, research and development, contract manufacturing and franchising.

On Feb. 2, customers streamed into the couple’s Huebner location to look at the books, capsules, edibles, pet products, skin and beauty goods, tinctures, topicals and smokables. Some were first-time visitors, and others were regulars.

At the counter, under a shiny Alamo Botanicals sign, and joined by their 6-year-old son, Carter, the Burrows discussed their journey from high school sweethearts at Judson to becoming the king and queen of San Antonio CBD and what the future looks like.

The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How’d you get into the business?

DB: I’ve always been an advocate of the plant. I’ve always kind of been around it growing up.

NB: Going back to school with ADHD was hard for him. And at that point they wanted to give him a medication, and he took it one time and he came to me and was like, “I cannot do this. There has to be another way.”

DB: Then I found CBD, which is more something that I can focus with and get things done throughout the day, and it kind of changed my life. CBD helped me be more productive.

NB: He had an initial company that was just an online platform, and he saw very quickly that he was not alone and that people are looking for other ways to manage not just ADHD but pain, their stress or anxiety and are looking into alternative medicine. He realized there needed to be a professional environment like where we’re sitting today, where somebody feels comfortable to walk in and ask questions.

Q: What’s your approach to business?

NB: Four years in, we have a very solid customer base where we’re like a family here. We’re very proud that we’re family-owned and that we have a community of customers that come in regularly. But we also have a ton of new people that come in and don’t know where to start.

DB: It’s a consultative approach. One-on-one, you’re listening to the customer. They’re coming in with stuff that’s really bothering them. And they’re kind of confiding in you. You want to be that listening ear. You want to find the best products for them. We’re not just trying to sell CBD.

NB: It’s so much bigger than that. Our philosophy has always been to help people. That’s where we’re, I think, the happiest, and it’s humbling. And we’re incredibly grateful for this opportunity. We don’t take it lightly.

Q: What hardships have you faced because of stigmas associated with CBD?

DB: It was crazy because when we did open, it was illegal. It was a very gray area. Kind of like the wild, Wild West. Basically, we didn’t know what was going to happen but just did it. I mean, we were helping people, and we knew it was the right path.

NB: The farm bill came in 2018. We opened in 2017. We don’t operate the way a normal business does — that’s a restaurant or something that can go into a bank and get a loan or get insurance. We’ve had to change banks. You get a letter in the mail that just says this is the date that we’re going to be closing the account so, you know, move your money. We had to go through significant vetting, documentation and questions and things like that to get into a hemp program through our bank now.

DB: We’ve gone through seven or eight banks.

NB: We also pay significantly higher fees per transaction for our point of sales. Square’s CBD program is completely separate than maybe the bakery down the street. I don’t know their fees, but I would bet you we’re paying more.

Q: How’d COVID impact your business?

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NB: Our first thing was protect the employees. So we were very fortunate that we didn’t have to lay anybody off. Then the stay-at-home orders hit, and that became a crazy time for us because there was this question of “Are you essential? Or are you not essential?” At one point, the city was coming and saying, “You’re not essential.” And then you had somebody else that would come and say you are.

Things are getting back to where people feel comfortable, and we’re seeing the traffic again. Everybody wears a mask. We social distance, we wipe everything down. Employees are constantly washing their hands. We do temp checks. We have all the signs up. We still are very much shipping a ton, doing curbside, doing deliveries. We’re committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure that people continue to have accessibility to the products that they have come to rely on.

DB: We have seen an influx of customers with stress, anxiety, a lot of sleeping problems, and they wanted to find a better alternative.

Q: What ailments are people seeking the most help for right now?

DB: Sleep, pain, stress and anxiety.

Q: What’s your most popular product?

DB: Icy Hemp.

NB: We actually got an order from the NBA. We shipped our Icy Hemp into the NBA bubble. We have some NBA players that order. We have a couple of PGA golfers and some ex-football coaches. Those are pinch-me moments. Icy Hemp is our topical line, it’s trademarked, and we make that here.

Q: What’s next for you?

DB: I think expanding the grow. So we’re looking into acquiring some land and doing greenhouses. I already have it all picked out. It’s kind of a family-owned thing in Kerrville. It’s about 35 acres, and eventually I want it to be where it houses everything, the manufacturing facility, the processing, the grow — all in one on that land.

NB: And then as far as store expansion, I mean, it’s just us two, and with the four stores, we’re working seven days a week. So in order to expand the brand, we did work with franchise attorneys and advisers over the last year. We’re finalizing a franchising proposal to where we can start sitting down with people. So we’re looking at maybe opening up franchising in 2021. That would be an exciting way to do the stores because our hands are pretty full with opening these two stores and then the grow facility.

DB: A huge dream of mine is to get into H-E-B. We’re still in talks with them.

NB: His dad retired from H-E-B after almost 50 years, and his mom is still there. They have a picture of David when he was a baby with Mr. Butt holding him because his dad was pretty high up at the distribution warehouse.

DB: Eventually, we’ll be doing all types of cannabinoids — THC when it becomes legal. We also started growing, too. So where we manufacture our products, we have an indoor grow facility where we grow cannabis hemp right now. We have our first harvest that’s about to hit the shelves in like a week or two.

NB: This is very much his vision, and now it’s become mine. And I would say I’m just as passionate about it as him. His dream has always been to go from seed to shelf, to be completely vertical.

From their clean, well-lit boutiques around San Antonio, Nancy and David Burrow, and…