Auxiliary businesses in the marijuana industry thriving too
Colorado’s marijuana industry is a kind of petri dish of economic and societal change; since the passing of Amendment 64 in 2012 and the first recreational marijuana shops opening in 2014, other states have proposed similar legislation, and other states have sued Colorado over what they see as federal violation. Although that uncertainty might scare away potential entrepreneurs and investors, the fact remains that the state’s economy and tax revenues are growing, thanks in large part to pot. According to a Business Insider analysis in 2014, Colorado had the fastest growing economy in the country, with $40.9 million being generated in the first 10 months of marijuana’s legalization, not including medical sales, licenses and fees, according to the Department of Revenue. And although dispensaries have a heavy hand in this economic growth, auxiliary businesses around the marijuana industry have also played a large part in the selling and hiring as well. While many retailers, like headshops, have seen increased competition, many have found ways to differentiate themselves in the market, and have evolved to keep atop the rest.
PUTTING A FACE TO THE PRODUCT
In particular, shops selling smoking paraphernalia have tried to carve out a cornerstone in the market by offering high quality customer service, with knowledgeable employees putting both a face and personality behind a customer’s experience in the store.
“Retail is changing, and personality is what brings in customers,” said Dan Glickman, co-owner of Get Hi Gallery. “People like the reliability in the product and the service that we offer, and, a lot of times, failing in customer service at other establishments brings people to Get Hi.”
Glickman and his business partner, Jey Henk, opened the first Get Hi Gallery location in Eagle-Vail in 2002, followed by locations in Breckenridge and Edwards in 2009 and 2015. Glickman said that the laws surrounding the sale of marijuana at licensed dispensaries for those over 21 have allowed shops like his to be able to have more direct conversations with prospective customers, and ensure that people leave with merchandise they will enjoy.
“It’s easier to be informative when talking with customers; people have questions and don’t have basic knowledge, and it allows our employees to really educate people that come in about a given product.”
Similarly, the popularity of vaporizers and other rechargeable smoking devices has led retailers like Get Hi Gallery to include a warranty program for many of their products, allowing customers to walk out feeling comfortable with what they purchased.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Retailers have also differentiated themselves with the quality of pieces sold at their establishments, particularly in the form of glass. Ste-V Day, owner of Smok N’Bra in Frisco, said that locally made glass pieces have been a huge draw for people to check out her shop, as pipes, bowls and bongs made from local glass blowers have a niche with more experienced smokers, and that more collectors have come out of a broadened market. Day said that there’s been more of a celebration of glass art compared to the stigma that used to be around smoking devices when she first began in the industry.
“It started with wood, metal and ceramic pipes; there was a little glass, but all imported from other countries. There was no art form or personal attachment to an artist or their pieces,” she said. “Nowadays, we sometimes do events like live glass blowing on my deck in the summers so people can actually see how it’s done.”
Glickman added that his stores’ focus on selling Colorado glass has been popular both at locations like the Eagle-Vail spot, where regular customers come looking for new additions for their collections, along with the Breckenridge location, where increased foot traffic brings in visitors looking for locally made glass souvenirs.
A COMMUNITY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY
And while dispensaries sell some of the same merchandise as retailers in different parts of the industry, the two work symbiotically in the new legal format, which has helped business on both sides.
“The dispensaries can sell some of the same products as us, and we can sell some products that they can’t,” said Glickman. “For us it’s about having a solid relationship with the dispensaries — we’ll send customers to them and they’ll send customers to us; it’s a kind of community.”
Day agrees that a larger market is better overall, as it’s brought more people to the state, and her business has only grown as competition has increased.
“I opened in 2011 before there was recreational, and only two shops have opened near me after recreational sales were legalized,” she said. “One closed down within the first year, and my shop has expanded an extra 240 square feet. People come here to ski and snowboard, but now there is a different kind of tourist — weed tourists.”
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