There are some fancy cannabis retailers that offer the highest-end items for customers who don’t mind paying extra, especially when surrounded by elegant décor.
Some store business models are also designed so all prices are marked up quite high, which means the owners can take home a little more coin each month. Not that there’s anything wrong with this – the lure of decent money and high growth expectations for this newly legal industry are why many entrepreneurs are taking the plunge.
But there are different philosophies at The Green Nugget, a store off of Francis Road between Nevada and Market streets.
Instead of spending money on fancy chandeliers and charging customers premium prices, The Green Nugget places greater priority on providing a wide amount of choices at affordable prices that hopefully keep people coming back.
“We see some stores marking things up 4 to 6 times higher than they need to,” said Matthew Hawkins, director of operations and marketing. “Realistically, it should only be three times at the most: one mark-up for the producer, one for taxes, one for the store.”
He joined the management team last spring when owner Scott O’Neil asked him to “re-imagine” the store.
Part of his focus has been on expanding the shop’s inventory, which is now considered the largest in Spokane County, and the second-largest in Washington, according to Leafly, a cannabis industry directory.
The 3,000-square-feet location provides 150 strains plus a significant selection of edibles, glassware, topicals, solventless concentrates and more.
“We especially look for local vendors who grow pesticide-free products, focus on helping the community and local charities, and try to work with compostable or environmentally-friendly materials,” Hawkins said. “We carry three times as much product as other local stores, and really try to have high-quality items and the freshest items.”
The store has invested in full-sized coolers that preserve and chill items like infused beverages and temperature-sensitive concentrates.
Hawkins also has put effort into improving procedures, including better product tracking and better cameras to deter customer or employee theft.
“I brought up a guy I knew and trusted from Texas to fix the ordering and inventory system,” Hawkins said. “He didn’t know anything about marijuana but helped us improve what we were doing.”
This focus also coordinated well with an audit by the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board last fall.
Mikhail Carpenter from the LCB said these audits examine everything financially related to a business, including accounting and inventory, to make sure retailers comply with state regulations.
He said the audit found several serious deficiencies including incorrect labeling, improper record keeping, and unpaid taxes and penalties. It ultimately resulted in a $27,334 fine for the shop, but Hawkins said the staff appreciated the opportunity to examine all aspects of the business.
“They looked at everyone’s backgrounds, our books, our sales, everything from top to bottom,” he said.
Hawkins said the owners and managers continue to make sure employees are treated well, since this approach leads to more satisfied, loyal customers.
Employees make $15/hour, can keep tips, have access to product samples and discounts, and will soon have health insurance. The Green Nugget is also working on creating a pool for employees to share sick hours.
“We try to give back to them as much as we can,” he said. “At our Christmas party, we handed out a lot of bonuses.”
The store has high hopes for 2018. In spring, it plans to relocate further west along Francis, closer to Division, at the former Preferred Medical location.
Along with a larger showroom, there will be a secure inventory cage and a secure outdoor employee break area.
“We’re all about the safety of our people, and they’ve also told us this is important,” Hawkins said.
Already, the new philosophies and actions seem to be having a positive effect.
Hawkins was especially excited by December performance – The Green Nugget was open on Christmas, and he said there was a line out the door pretty much all day.
“We’re hearing from vendors who want to work with us again because of everything we’ve been doing, and some new companies as well,” he said. “We’ve proven we’re a powerhouse, and are all about customers and producer/processors.”