When Chris Woods started Terrapin Care Station in Boulder 10 years ago, there were no states with legal recreational markets and only a few with medical dispensaries. Today, legal states have declared pot shops “essential businesses” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“My lawyer said, ‘I’m so proud of you, Chris. Just a few years ago, you were a common criminal. Now you’re a life-sustaining business,’” Woods joked in a recent interview with Politico.

One thing has remained the same: Terrapin is still solely owned by Woods. Unlike many other cannabis companies with national ambitions, he’s rejected the allure of going public to raise cash and fuel expansion.

“We’re Terrapin; we’re the turtle,” Woods said. “In terms of the tortoise and the hare, I’ve always felt that the tortoise ends up winning that race.”

That business philosophy now looks prescient as many of the cannabis companies that went public and ran up debt are facing plummeting stock prices while capital markets are drying up.

In contrast, Terrapin’s expansion plans are on the move. It now has a cultivation and production facility in Pennsylvania, with plans to expand by another 50,000-square feet. The company is also in the midst of adding facilities in Michigan and Missouri, as well as growing its chain of six stores in Colorado.

“I think a lot of people let the cart [get] before the horse and went into a lot of markets where they didn’t have the infrastructure or the know-how to really do this,” Woods said. “We’ve never grown too much too fast.”