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Tacoma retailer High Society uses atmosphere, events to stand out

Showroom of High Society in Tacoma. (Courtesy High Society)
Showroom of High Society in Tacoma. (Courtesy High Society)
Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS Correspondent
At first glance, High Society looks more like a nightclub than a cannabis retailer. The swanky Tacoma store on Pine Street, however, is somewhat isolated, which was also a challenge for Xander’s – the previous occupant and the city’s first cannabis shop. But the location is also why High Society decided to elevate the cannabis retail experience to a new level and make it a destination. In July, the shop had its first HiSo VIP Exclusive Event, with the goal of promoting not the product but the experience. The owners closed the shop on a Saturday night, unheard of for retailers, and invited vendors, key people in the community, and loyal customers for a delightful evening of conversation and food. The shop was technically closed, so no cannabis sales were allowed and consumption was not permitted inside the facility. The HiSo event is one of many exclusive, invitation-only events designed to build community and help High Society stand out from the 19 retailers in the city. Upcoming events include a series of Pop Up Parties featuring different herbal consultants and specialists to talk about the health benefits of marijuana. A Halloween party and a New Year’s Eve party with a Great Gatsby theme are also in the works. Owner Dr. Jason Kitzman also owns shops in Bellingham and Anacortes. The branding for High Society stores were inspired by the Prohibition era and post-Prohibition, a time when the re-legalization of alcohol mirrored what has transpired in recent years with the legalization of recreational cannabis. The shops feature a speak-easy atmosphere, and budtenders dress in period costume. But along with the fun, Kitzman focuses on helping people. “As a physician my goal was to have a medically-minded cannabis business,” he said. “That’s why more than half of our products are medically certified, and there is always someone on staff with a state medical certification.” His health-minded approach has provided exclusive relationships with area processors. About 75% of the product lines are new to Tacoma retail customers, including Root Down, Skagit Organics RSO, Herbal Tech, and Green Acres. “Our next venture is to introduce Marijuana Mondays,” said Nathan Misura, purchasing manager at the Tacoma location. “We will open the store from 8 to 9 a.m. for seniors, inviting them to tour the facility and attend educational seminars by herbal consultants and medically-certified budtenders. We have a lot of room here separate from the retail store, which allows us to bring people in and educate them, leading them to products they may not have tried or understand.” Building community engagement to boost awareness for a business isn’t a new concept, but it is fairly novel for legal cannabis. Instead of focusing on the limitation of their location, High Society focuses on its advantages. There’s ample parking, allowing use of the parking lot for discreet outdoor events and larger functions. There’s also a large reception area for gatherings and events. Harrie Gorman, manager for High Society Tacoma, sums up the approach nicely.”We want to find new and creative ways to build rapport with our clientele. We are not just an in-and-out shop: we are a local cannabis destination where we cater to your tastes, provide products you want, and teach you everything you need to know about them. No pressure, just come and have fun.”
Kate A. Miner has a degree in visual anthropology, and has worked in marketing and advertising for many years. She writes, takes photos and teaches yoga.
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