KODIAK — It turns out cannabis retail stores in Kodiak are like buses: you wait ages for one, and then two come along at the same time.
Just as Jack Schactler is jumping through the final hoops to open his proposed cannabis retail store High Rise LLC, another local, Andrew “Drew” Sablon, is entering the final set of bureaucratic hurdles to open his own pot shop.
Sablon recently completed his retail license application with the State of Alaska for Dejavu Cannabis Company, which he’s aiming to open in early summer. Sablon still needs approval from Kodiak Island Borough and the state, as well as a successful inspection of his building, before he opens Dejavu’s doors.
“To be open by Crab Fest would be the dream,” Sablon said in an interview with the Kodiak Daily Mirror at the Rendezvous bar Wednesday.
Sablon has been living in Kodiak for roughly eight years and said the idea to open a marijuana store came several years ago, shortly after state residents voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
“I really wanted to see it happen on this island,” Sablon said. “Mind you, they (Kodiak Island Borough Assembly) were going to opt-out at first, which is why I started the Kodiak Island Cannabis Coalition.”
Following the state-wide vote to legalize, the Borough Assembly voted to opt-out of allowing cannabis sales for a year, while it figured out how it would regulate the new industry. Sablon said that he used KICC to rally a crowd of locals to advocate for recreational marijuana before the Assembly, which ultimately voted to allow marijuana to be sold on Kodiak in April 2017.
Sablon was working at the Rendezvous at the time and said that the bar’s owner, Toni Munsey, asked him why nobody had set up a marijuana store in Kodiak yet.
In response to Munsey’s inquiry, Sablon replied, “Well, give me a piece of land, and I’ll build one.”
“I was half joking around and half serious, and she said ‘OK,’” Sablon said.
About a year ago, Munsey agreed to lease some land to Sablon, who is planning to open Dejavu just behind the Rendezvous, on a small plot on the other side of the parking lot. Sablon said the name of his business came to him immediately.
“Once I knew it was going to be behind the Rendezvous, I figured the Dejavu behind the Rendezvous had a nice feel to it,” he said.
The building will be 16ft by 24ft, and Sablon has already begun construction on the foundation. Sablon said he was originally planning to open his store in an even smaller and more simple building, but state regulations required the structure to have certain features, such as a bathroom.
“The next thing I know, I’m going through blueprints with architects and engineers,” he said. “It got quite a bit more expensive, for sure –– but at that point, I had the dream.”
“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss,” he continued. “I’ve been a chef for 22, 23 years. I was just wanting a new direction. Marijuana has always been something I’ve been passionate about, and I’ve always liked to educate people about it. And when I realized I had this opportunity, I just jumped on it and took the pipe dream and really made it come to fruition.”
Having recently completed his retail license application, Sablon has just a few steps left before he can open up shop. He will have to attend a public hearing before the Assembly on May 2, as well as a meeting with the state May 1-3. Following that, an inspector from the state will visit to ensure that Sablon has abided by all the state regulations in the construction of his building.
“There will be a fast and furious build through April, but it’s a small little building,” said Sablon, before looking around the Rendezvous bar and adding, “I mean the building would literally fit in this room.”
Stepping out into the parking lot, Sablon surveyed the site of his prospective store. He said he’s coordinating a team of people to erect the structure over the next few weeks, referring to the build as an exercise in “Amish Barnraising.” He’s aiming to get the building completed by early May.
Sablon said that Kodiak is more than large enough to have multiple marijuana stores without them having to compete for clientele.
“It’s like the coffee shops in this town,” he said. “You would expect that when Starbucks came in, it would have crushed all the other coffee shops, but there’s basically a coffee shop on every block.”
He noted, however, that being outside of town means that he won’t have to charge city sales tax, which could potentially bring his prices lower than stores that are established in the City of Kodiak.
“I’m expecting a lot of people who come out the road, a lot of people who live in the flats, a lot of people who go sightseeing and maybe want to pick up some of the finest green product in town,” Sablon said. “I think there will be bleedover of the Rendezvous’s customers too. That was kind of the whole idea: they’ll come out here to eat, drink, smoke and be able to enjoy the scenery out here in the flats.”
However, Sablon noted that the Dejavu would only be a retail store and would not provide space for consumption for the time being.
Sablon said he speaks regularly with Greg Egle, the owner and operator of Kodiak’s sole commercial grow-op, Bells Flats Botanicals. His plan is to primarily sell product that was grown on Kodiak.
“We’re going to have all the Kodiak product from Bells Flats Botanicals,” he said. “If all goes well, and we sell-out of that product, then I’ll look for more on the mainland from the top quality growers. We’ll try to have a spectrum of what Alaska has to offer.”
“It’ll be a small, little fun shop and they’ll get to pick my brain and I’ll tell them about the wonders of cannabis,” he added.