Cannabis Retailers Modernize Their Stores In Fight For Competitive Santa Rosa Market



The buying experience for cannabis users is improving markedly for residents of Santa Rosa.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced these retailers to move quickly to more online orders, pickup and curb delivery. But with rampant vaccinations and the threat of relaxation of the delta variant, licensed dispensaries are now focusing on customers returning to physical stores to discover a greater range of products than a year ago – from flowers to edibles, drinks and lotions.

And forget about the idea that dispensaries might look like old 1970s head-end stores that are built into an industrial space. The shopping experience is more like what you might find in a modern Apple Store, with a clean interior design, minimal footprint, bright lighting, and cheerful, enthusiastic customer service.

Newcomer Jane Dispensary opened a month ago on Armory Drive and aims to deliver a bespoke experience in a modern setting that is more like a sleek merchandiser. Longtime retailer SPARC has renovated its Santa Rosa store. And early next year, Solful, which has collected up to 3,000 customers per month from its Sevastopol site, will be opening a second and larger site on Farmers Lane.

Cannabis customers expect more when they walk into a dispensary, said Erich Pearson, managing director and president of SPARC, which is also building a new store in Sonoma that will open by March to accompany the upgrade of its location to Sevastopol.

Pearson has compiled a list of customer expectations: What does a store look like? Is parking available? Do the employees have a good knowledge of the products? How are you treated by security?

” There are many. And it all has to really work (on all cylinders) for a business to be successful in a very competitive market like Santa Rosa, â€said Pearson, where opening a new store can cost up to $ 1 million. .

The activity comes as there was a slight increase of 12 retailers licensed by the city and state to operate in Santa Rosa, up from three in 2018 as a result of Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of adults, city spokesman Kevin King said. . The total does not include B Kind, which prevailed against opposition from a Santa Rosa charter school down the street, or Solful, which will open in the first quarter just across the street from the village of Montgomery.

City coffers have benefited from growth in retail as business sales tax revenues have grown from $ 163,729 at the end of fiscal 2018 to $ 1.1 million in the last exercise, King said. That would equate to $ 36 million in overall recreational sales on an annual basis, as the city taxes cannabis products at 3% for adult use, but exempts the levies for those with a medical use card.

Santa Rosa can serve as a good test of how big the retail market might be as the cannabis industry still knows growing pains leaving the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, especially since cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. Although it has the largest population, California lags other states in dispensary numbers with 774 compared to smaller states such as Colorado with 825 and Oregon with 756, according to Canix, an industry software provider.

Local governments have a great grip on dispensary regulation and those in Napa and Marin counties have been reluctant to approve adult stores, leading these residents to venture into Sonoma County to get their products.

Not all towns in Sonoma County are on board either. Petaluma, which does not have authorized retailers, may address the issue next year.

The Santa Rosa area, meanwhile, has grown due to the relative acceptance by local leaders and residents of other jurisdictions and being conveniently located along the Highway 101 corridor for helping businesses reach beyond the city’s approximately 180,000 residents.

“Its popularity has definitely increased,†said Trevor Finley, manager of the Mighty Quinn Smoke Shop in Santa Rosa, which provides accessories for smoking and vape cannabis. “He became more mutually accepted in various classes. “

The demand led Eli Melrod, the 26-year-old CEO and co-founder of Solful, to open the new store in Santa Rosa. The Sevastopol store saw a 20% increase in sales from 2019 to 2020 and will see double-digit pace for this year, Melrod said, declining to reveal a specific dollar amount. The number of products it offers has grown from 500 when it opened in 2017 to around 750 today in a Trader Joe’s-like configuration. These items include the new Gem + Jane sparkling drinks, which are particularly marketed to women, as well as different types of gummy candies that are popular for sleeping pills.


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