One of the Alaska marijuana industry’s most important businesses doesn’t have a single joint or grow light in sight.
Instead, at JKD Brands there’s a bustle of activity as sales teams work through the logistics of orders from around the state, a team of designers generates everything from labels to logo design, and others organize the warehouse, apply labels or run printing machines.
On one weekday June morning, the warehouse space in South Anchorage was filled with the electronic chirp-chirping of an ultraviolet printer applying designs to metal tins, a relatively new addition to the one-stop supplier for Alaska’s marijuana businesses that has grown and evolved alongside the industry since it opened in 2015.
Today, JKD Brands supplies Alaska’s marijuana industry with everything from wholesale rolling papers to plastic pop-top containers to customized packaging, labels and containers. The 18 employees pride themselves on taking the headache out of design, shipping and supplies.
“When customers come in, we try to give them a one-stop shop experience,” said Paige Perez, the company’s PR manager and designer. “We started out doing accessories back in 2015 when the company was founded, and the packaging and labeling exploded from there.”
Perez was standing in an area of the store called “the grocery store,” which was packed with all variety of papers, lighters, containers, rolling trays, accessories and vape batteries. It’s a veritable wonderland of marijuana goods and gadgets, but Chief Operations Officer and co-founder Jim Dyer is clear that it’s only available through wholesale. They don’t want to compete with their customers or inadvertently sell supplies to the black market.
Dyer said after launching JKD Brands in 2015 with his wife, Kelly, that they quickly found there was a need for knowledge about the many regulations that affect marijuana sales, whether it is the state’s packaging regulations or federal regulations for consumables.
Because JKD Brands doesn’t grow, process or sell marijuana in any form, it doesn’t fall under the same licensing requirements of other businesses.
“We came to realize that knowledge of the regulations and particularly for packaging and containers would be of some value to our customers, so we branched out into that and developed expertise on the regulations,” he said. “We’ve grown from there.”
To that end, the Dyers frequently can be found at meetings of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board to stay engaged and informed on the latest changes in packaging regulations.
And that growth has resulted in a lot of changes for JKD Brands, which recently moved into a bigger warehouse space that’s already pretty much packed to the brim with supplies. As things have evolved, Dyer said a lot of customers have come looking for custom packaging, whether it’s a cardboard box for a spray bottle or a plastic blister pack for vape cartridges.
“Sometimes we can satisfy customers with off-the-shelf-type products, and sometimes customers need something much more in-depth like custom packaging and we also do that,” he said. “The custom packages involve coming up with something unique, whether it’s the size, the shape or the color or all of that.”
Dyer pointed toward a glass shelf with a variety of small paperboard boxes. Later when he pulls out another collection of packaging examples, there’s a few with printed labels for products that are already on store shelves and others that are plain white for projects that are in development and still under wraps.
In fact, there’s quite a few products behind the front counter of JKD Brands that are under wraps until they’re ready for sale. Perez said it’s been exciting to see how the needs of the marijuana industry are changing as the market becomes more established and stable.
“A sign of the maturing market is more and more custom work. The bags and those plastic drams were the base starting point, and now more and more we have people who want something more specific than that, and we’ll work to create those custom projects,” she said. “Originally, people were like, ‘Give us a label, give us a tube’ and now people are like, ‘We want things that are going to be eco-friendly, we want things that are going to reflect our brand name.’ It’s exciting for that world to open up and for us to provide those kinds of things.”
She said in addition to more custom packaging, there’s been a lot of interest in more environmentally friendly products. JKD Brands helps facilitate the collection and recycling of the No. 5 plastics that are used in most of the pop-top containers but said they’re always on the lookout for even more Earth-friendly products.
For many customers, offloading the headache of buying supplies and figuring out shipping to Alaska is a key selling point of JKD Brands.
Owners of AK Frost, Kyle and Kristin Denton, stopped in to pick up an order of supplies around lunchtime on a Wednesday afternoon. They said they used to do most of the ordering themselves but freight prices became too high to handle.
Perez said JKD Brands supplies businesses throughout Alaska, including rural areas. Turnaround time on some products can be as little as two to three days, depending on the size and scope of the order, she said.
The scene inside JKD Brands is not just about the services but one of many scenes that illustrates the sometimes-invisible and far-reaching impact of how a new industry can bring new opportunities to the state besides just bud-tending and retail. Perez recently graduated with a communications degree and wasn’t sure that she would stick around in Anchorage but said opportunities like this meant she could stay.
And at its heart, businesses like JKD Brands are focused on problem-solving, which has meant every day is a new opportunity to learn and grow.
“You’re constantly evolving on the go,” Perez said. “There is no normal day.”
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer in Anchorage. Comments about this story? Email editor@AlaskaCannabist.com.