Lion’s Mane in RiNo is the nation’s only brick-and-mortar shop catering to fungi cultivators and mycologists.
Lion’s Mane in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood on any given day—a nerd perfecting her grain spawn or a newbie buying his first pressure sterilizer, a maker growing lobster mushrooms for red dye or a chef cultivating oyster mushrooms for pasta sauce. For Lion’s Mane co-owner Tatiana Chandee, that’s the beauty of running the nation’s only brick-and-mortar shop selling fungi cultivation and mycology supplies.ou never know who might walk through the door at
“We get such a cool hodgepodge of people,” Chandee says. “When you walk into a cannabis grow store, everyone looks pretty similar. They’re wearing Carhartts; they’re slightly dusty. With mushroom growers, you get so many different flavors of people interested in different aspects of the mushroom.”
Chandee, an event planner and bartender, picked up her fascination with mushrooms from her partner and Lion’s Mane co-owner, Matt Swift. A carpenter, Swift got his taste for all things mycelial through his work with spalted wood, which is created by a blue-staining fungi that he learned how to isolate and cultivate. “Our love for mushrooms is a little bit different,” Chandee says. “His is about being able to see them grow. My love is more of seeing all the things they’ve been able to do. There are mushroom bricks that people are building houses out of, and they’ve been shown to remediate oil spills. I just think they’re such cool specimens, like beings. My love for them definitely comes with a lot of curiosity, awe, and wonder.”
Chandee and Swift had been discussing opening a store for people who shared their interest in shrooms for a couple months when Denver voted in its Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative, which decriminalized possession in May 2019. “When it passed, we were like, it might be the right time,” she says. In December of that year, Lion’s Mane opened in a loft space on Blake Street featuring everything you could possibly need to grow mushrooms—and if they don’t have it, they’ll find it. There’s a literature section with magazines, field identification guides, cultivation handbooks, cookbooks, and rare books; an equipment section with pressure cookers, sterilizers, and microscopes; a supply section with substrates, grow bags, jars, agar, and petri dishes; and a supplements section with tinctures and medicinals.
Though a good amount of the business at Lion’s Mane is from people interested in the “quote/ unquote, less legal, more gray side of things,” Chandee says, “we stand for all mushrooms. We’re not catering toward any specific type of grower.”
Disclaimers with instructions on how to talk about psilocybin are posted throughout Lion’s Mane. If you indicate that you’re buying equipment to cultivate and sell magic mushrooms or take them out of the state, for example, Lion’s Mane won’t sell to you.
“We try to curate local as much as possible,” Chandee says. Since Denver “decrimmed,” mushroom supply companies have been popping up fast, giving them a lot more to choose from. Lion’s Mane features tinctures from Arvada-based Mile High Mycology and hosts bimonthly cultivation classes through Mushroom Cult, a Denver-based training company. The homegrown shop survived lockdown last spring by offering curbside pickup and local delivery and is now focusing on moving more of its business online and stepping up bulk and special orders. “We’re just mom and pop,” Chandee says. “For now, this is what our plans are, to service our local community.”
Lion’s Mane encourages Denver’s myco-community to interact through a community board where people can post information about classes, forays, and products the shop doesn’t offer. This holiday season, Chandee is curating a mushroom-themed gift section featuring local artisans. “Community building is important to us,” she says.
Mushroom cultivators are just beginning to emerge from the underground as more and more cities and states decriminalize, and psilocybin is promising to be the next medical marijuana. Still, the community has a long way to go before it hits stadium status—and that’s just fine with Chandee. “The cannabis field right now is very capitalistic, thinking about the money,” she says. “We’re still in the love- for-the-science phase. How do you grow mushrooms? Why are they so weird?”