Kodiak’s first ever retail cannabis store opened its doors Saturday, following a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10:00 a.m. High Rise, a store located at 104 Center Avenue (just behind Tony’s Bar), is owned and operated by Jack Schactler and saw over 400 customers on its opening day.
“We had a great day,” Schactler said. “We’re getting a lot of good feedback.”
Shortly before 10:00 a.m., a line of people snaked its way around the side of the building that houses High Rise. Those in line were waiting for their first opportunity to purchase marijuana since its recreational use in Alaska was legalized by public vote in 2014.
Prior to Schactler cutting a ceremonial red ribbon, Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sarah Phillips told the crowd that she was pleased to be part of the opening of a brand new business which “there’s obviously a lot of demand for.” Through the morning, door prizes were awarded to a handful of lucky customers.
High Rise will sell marijuana products and accessories to customers over the age of 21, seven days a week. The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
As the clock reached 10 p.m. on Saturday, Schactler was satisfied, but visibly tired. While he expressed jubilance at the success of the opening, he quipped “I also love sleep,” before locking the doors for the night.
“You know how many people we had through the door today?!” Schactler said, while checking a tally on the machine that certifies customer’s IDs as they walk in. “Four hundred and eleven! Damn…”
His exhaustion wasn’t just from the flurry of customers that High Rise saw on its first day open, but from a week of labor building up to the grand opening.
“We had three days of packaging and labelling – 14 hours a day,” Schactler said. “It was a headache, but we did it. I couldn’t have done it without my team. We made a good choice, we hired an excellent team.”
Including Schactler, High Rise has four full-time employees. Schactler noted that the commercial marijuana industry involves a huge level of traceability -- everything that’s sold must be able to be tracked back to its source – which is why he and his staff had to spend much of the week preparing for opening day.
With regard to the products that will be available at High Rise, Schactler said they will vary as time goes on.
“It’s totally subject to change and we didn’t even put out everything we intended to today,” he said. “We put out everything that we got ready,”
High Rise will be selling pre-rolled joints and blunts, as well as bulk marijuana flower, weighed to order –– much like a deli counter.
“So you can come in and say ‘I want two grams of this, two grams of this, two grams of this,’ and we can fulfill that,” Schactler said.
The store will also sell vaporizers, glass pipes, and other merchandise, as well as cannabis concentrates that are vapable and smokable through a pipe. Last year, the City Council voted to ban the sale of edible products, but Schactler is optimistic that the regulation may be lifted in the next few years, with enough support from the community.
“We got a lot of CBD products too,” he said. “Bath bombs, rubs, tinctures. Hemp energy drinks … everyone’s a little different.”
Schactler’s comment on the variety of his customer base was backed up by the varied demographics of those who came through the store that day. A line around the corner included adults of all ages and from all walks of life.
“The oldest person we had come through here was like 78 years old,” he said. “She had never smoked marijuana in her life. She didn’t even want to smoke weed, she was just drawn by how cool this new industry is. She ended up buying some CBD products.”
Also present at the opening was Christopher Corey, the owner and operator of Cosmic SeaWeed, a butane hash oil manufacturer based in Homer. On Saturday, Corey was greeting customers and talking to those new to cannabis about his business.
“We make vape cartridges, shatter, crumble, wax,” he said “All the basic solid concentrates and vape cartridges as well.”
Corey met Schactler at a meeting of the State Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board. Prior to that they had spoken over the phone about getting Corey’s product into Schactler’s store. Corey said that the pair have been pooling their experience to help each other out. High Rise is now selling a number of Cosmic SeaWeed products.
Corey is relatively new to the industry too and expressed a lot of excitement over the opening of High Rise.
“Everyone who comes is happy. How would I rate the reception out of ten? Eleven,” he said. “I haven’t heard one person saying: ‘Weed store? You’re going to ruin our town.’ I’ve heard people saying: ‘Thank God. I’m a 65-year old woman. I don’t feel comfortable asking people for weed. I don’t have a contact. But now I can walk in here, on my own time, and buy something in a safe environment.’ That’s what it’s all about, man.”
Also helping out with the grand opening was Chamber of Commerce Board member and Kodiak Island Borough Manager Michael Powers. He observed, based on the crowd gathered, that “there is obviously a demand” for a cannabis retail store, but added that he doesn’t expect them to be popping up on every corner.
“We have one in the works out in Bells Flats, but we also have a relatively small population, so I would be a little bit surprised if we have too many more open up,” he said. “There’s only so much you can support.”
The marijuana industry still has some wrinkles to iron out -- for example, because the product is still federally illegal, banking can be an issue for business owners (as such, High Rise is a cash-only business). Powers, however, expressed optimism that Schactler would summit the challenges that are somewhat unique to the industry.
“Most of the businesses that I’m familiar with have figured out ways to deal with the lack of banking. Credit unions are starting to open their doors to dispensaries now, which gives them an option they didn’t have before,” Powers said.
After a successful first day, Schactler appeared to be content.
“I’m just happy that the City decided to adopt these regulations and let us participate in this industry,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s something that I’ve dreamed about. And now we’re here.”