Des Moines, Washington
Several key factors play into the success of King County’s No. 1 store
The old adage in real estate is location, location, location, and nowhere is that more important than it is for retail businesses. In the cannabis space, the idea that “weed sells itself” is quickly being replaced by an ultra-competitive business in which every advantage matters, and those companies set up with a location to drive traffic — and handle that flow of customers — are the ones set up for success.
By Brian Beckley, Garrett Rudolph and Patrick Wagner
When Washington state began accepting license applications for its recreational cannabis market in 2013, Seth Simpson immediately began to think about the potential for a property he owned in Des Moines, a small city south of Seattle with about 32,000 residents.
This property, originally purchased to house a medical marijuana grow, had several key factors going for it, including its location on Pacific Highway, a quarter-mile from Interstate 5. It also had a huge adjacent lot that could be used for parking and was just minutes away from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
When Simpson, who had been running businesses in the medical cannabis industry since 2010, obtained his retail licenses in 2014, Greenside Recreational became one of the first adult-use shops in the state to open. Greenside opened two stores in King County, with its flagship store in Des Moines proving itself to be one of the best retail locations in all of Washington.
In 2018, Simpson brought on Kristina Green as his chief operating officer, and she propelled Greenside into its next stages of growth. Green and her team started homing in on supply and demand, paying close attention to their customers’ experience and growing as demand started to take off.
Greenside has been the highest producing retail store in King County for the last three years, holding down the No. 4 spot in the state even through the tumultuous past couple years that saw an early pandemic boom followed by a noticeable drop-off with the economic challenges of 2022.
The core of any successful business is a strong team and a vision, and Greenside argues it has some of the best employees in the industry. From budtenders to those who work in inventory, marketing and management, the company has tons of industry experience and knowledge. Their goal every day is to be good to their local community, provide their customers the best experience and provide the largest product selection in the state.
The shop’s look, layout and operational flow have been everchanging since the company opened its doors in 2014. Upgrades have been aplenty at Greenside, from the newly expanded parking lot to the color of the exterior to the beautiful, stained wood countertops and sleek slot wall that stays fully stocked with the largest inventory in the state.
When Green joined the company in 2018, the sales floor only had five registers — doubling that to 10 registers keeps the flow of shoppers moving through the store efficiently even on the busiest days.
The laughter and camaraderie between customers and employees give off a “Cheers” kind of vibe and becomes infectious rather quickly. Two onsite ATMs and a glass shop conveniently located in the same building offer a one-stop type of experience. The glass shop boasts a wide range of paraphernalia, snacks, tobacco products, vapes and even clothing available for purchase.
Greenside also has a successful second store in Seattle, and Simpson is keeping his eyes open for expansion opportunities, while still holding onto a license in a city that has a moratorium. Expansion is a goal of Greensides but not top priority — the opportunity must be the right fit.
“I don’t know when or where or how we’re going to do that yet, but the plan is to expand, and we’ll see how things shake out,” Simpson says.
Simpson is also hopeful that regulations will continue to evolve as the industry matures. Tax reform is a necessary step, he says, as Washington’s cannabis consumers pay 47% in tax on their cannabis purchase. It’s one of the highest tax rates of any legal state in the country — a 37% excise tax on top of state and local sales taxes that can add up to another 10%. Those exorbitant tax rates are only helping to fuel a “huge” black market, particularly at a time when consumers across the country are dealing with record inflation and soaring gas prices.
“I’d like to see the excise taxes come down to a reasonable level and allow for the growers to make a livable profit,” Simpson says.
But as the cannabis industry braces itself against the ups and downs of an uncertain economy and the perpetually changing nature of the business, Greenside Recreational appears to have the foundation in place to remain one of Washington’s top cannabis companies, with an excellent location, a welcoming atmosphere and a stellar leadership team.