ILWACO — On July 8, 2014 Washington’s first recreational marijuana retailers opened their doors for business. A little more than two years later, recreational pot is a budding business on the Peninsula with two dispensaries set to open in August and September.
Mr. Doobees, a Raymond-based retail marijuana dispensary has branched out to a lot at 1410 40th Street in Seaview with an August opening anticipated. Meanwhile, Longview-based Freedom Market looks to open shop on Howerton Avenue in the Port of Ilwaco in September. The businesses will provide an option for Peninsula residents looking to purchase medical and recreational marijuana. The alternative had previously been a drive to Astoria or Raymond, the nearest recreational locations. Mr. Doobees is aiming for an August opening and Freedom Market is anticipating a September start. The exact opening dates for both businesses hinge on final approvals.
“We did all the applications with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board,” Jay Berneberg, co-owner of Freedom Market, said, “We’re now seeking approval from local authority.” The Port of Ilwaco approved the business in a 2-1 vote. The date largely hinges on final approval by the planning commission.
“I think the worse case scenario we would be looking at the middle or late August,” Berneberg said adding that anticipation been rampant.
“When we were there for the final inspection, people kept stopping by and asking ‘when are you going to be open?’ and we said, “as soon as possible. One thing we want to make sure we do is be that we’re 100 percent compliant with all laws — state and local,” Berneberg summed.
Freedom Market has sister stores in Longview and Kelso. The Kelso shop was one of the fist five in Washington to open on opening day, July 8, 2014. Breanna Alleman will serve as majority owner and on-site manager for the dispensary at the Port of Ilwaco. Alleman believes September 1 will be the likely opening date.
“To be pioneers in this new industry is exciting, and we’re grateful for this opportunity,” Alleman said, “We look forward to bringing business into the community.” Currently there are two marijuana retailers open for business in the county including Raymond-based Mr. Doobies and Grower’s Outlet in South Bend. Among the Pacific County marijuana producers and processors, there are nine including BMF Washington, based in Raymond; Green Labs, based in South Bend; Kush Farms Incorporated, based in Raymond; Two Heads Co, based in Raymond; Vancouver Weed Company, based in Ilwaco, Millennium Marijuana, based in Raymond; Quality Growers, based in Raymond; Superior Harvest, based in Raymond and Tantus, based in Raymond. BMF Washington has largely been the biggest producer of the group totally nearly $9 million in sales since 2014.
Leasing the space at 133 Howerton Avenue wasn’t an option, according to Alleman.
“Because of the nature of our business, the bank wouldn’t let the current owners lease to us. They said it violated their federal funding laws,” Alleman explained. “We’re actually having to purchase the building to be able to operate there.”
The port location presents a prime opportunity.
“It’s such a great location. And everyone has been honest and upfront. Being a new industry it’s kind of scary, especially in a smaller town, but everyone has been very respectful and open,” Alleman summed. “We’re excited to become part of the community there.”
Alleman believes friendly customer service, knowledgeable staff and top-quality product have been the secret behind the success at their locations in Longview and Kelso. Since 2014, the Longview location totaled more than $4 million dollars in sales, the best among Cowlitz County dispensaries. To date, The Freedom Market has raised nearly $1.5 million in tax revenue, according to Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCC) figures.
The industry has brought new business and awoken sleepy coastal communities lagging from decline of lumber and fishing industries. In spite of injecting new jobs and business into Ilwaco, Alleman is aware that raising the blinds will likely raise some eyebrows.
“You’re always going to have people that are opposed to what we’re doing, but generally we don’t have a lot of problems. It’s been a very positive experience overall.”