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Green Star Cannabis shifts business model

Owner concerned about growing competition

Shoppers at Green Star Cannabis this fall and winter will experience something new: a selection of items that are less expensive, intended especially for shoppers who may not want to pay more for something that’s higher quality.

And, for current and future customers who do prefer premium prices for premium quality, they can still find these items at the store on Division Street, just north of downtown Spokane.

It’s a bit of a switch for owner Sam Calvert, who recently decided to expand his offerings and modify his business plan after tracking local and state sales data, along with keeping an eye on the increasing number of shops in the Spokane area.

“I can stand on top of the mountain and scream that we have the best quality, but not everyone wants to hear this,” he said. “People are saying, ‘We want you to meet our price point.’”

Calvert recently rearranged his shop to create separate price areas for different needs and budgets. He’s knows it’s not going to be easy to ask the growers he works with to accept lower prices, or for some lower-grade products to meet the shop’s high quality standards.

But he feels that this is the best way to give more customers more of what they want, whether it’s the age 40-60 shoppers who make larger purchases, or the age 21-29 market, which represents about 70 percent of local cannabis shoppers and collectively don’t spend as much per item.

“Visit stores on Friday evenings, and you see people lined up ready to get what they need to party all weekend,” Calvert said. “They want the cheapest beer and the cheapest bud.”

Whatever your interests and budget, he wants people to know that there’s something for everyone at Green Star.

The shop offers an extensive selection of local cannabis flower, concentrates and edibles, plus a variety of accessories, from ashtrays to papers. It features a large selection of glass products in all price ranges. He prefers to work with local indoor, smaller-sized farms that hand-trim their product.

He’s also proud of the shop’s knowledgeable budtenders, most who have been working there for years.

“We have the lowest turn-over in the state,” he said.

Green Star also has three certified medical consultants, including Calvert, who are trained in assisting authorized medical patients in choosing the proper product for their health needs and how to navigate the state medical database. Shoppers with their medical cards can browse a large selection of CBD products, which contain less THC and more pain-relieving properties.

The shop opened three years ago. Then, and now, the focus has been on quality.

“The first thing I do with every sample that comes in is scope it for anything, including powdery mildew, or mites, dead or alive,” he said.

If he’s satisfied, he’ll give it to his staff to sample, and they’ll apply similar rigorous standards. About 80 percent of material submitted is declined.

“If everything checks out, I’ll place an order,” Calvert said. “Because of this, I’m proud to say that we only work with exceptional growers and carry the best product. That’s our customers saying this, not me saying this.”

While this philosophy has created many loyal customers, it has also created challenges for the N. Division shop in an increasingly competitive climate.

Calvert and another retailer were part of a city committee which helped create the framework for the cannabis market once the product became legal to buy and sell. At the time, based on his research and data from the state’s Office of Financial Management, the group concluded that 18 shops in the greater Spokane area would be the most optimal and sustainable. This included eight in the City of Spokane, three in Spokane Valley and seven anywhere else in the county.

Today, there are 34 shops in the county, along with a new one that may be opening soon across the street from Green Star.

“I really have no choice but to change my business model,” he said.

Green Star also has worked hard to maintain a good relationship with the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board and has even hosted training for their officers.

While he can’t fault local customers for knowing what they want, he does criticize the City of Spokane for approving so many licenses. It may be good for the tax base and customer choice, but puts more pressure on retailers.

Calvert isn’t necessarily excited about the shift to lower-cost products, but is willing to see if it can help.

“Everybody wants in here, because they know we really put each product through the wringer,” he said.