After about six years of uncertainty, American Harvest has finally found a place to call home.
The cannabis retail shop is in its third location since opening its doors in 2014, but owner Kelani Mirau says the current spot is by far the best yet, and she’s looking forward to staying put for a long time.
American Harvest is located on Highway 97 in Peshastin, Washington, a tiny town in Chelan County with fewer than 2,000 residents and a severe shortage of commercially zoned properties. Since starting the company, Mirau practically had to earn a master’s degree in zoning regulations. For her new space, she scoured the valley for compliant properties before finally finding a retail space the owner was planning to raze. Instead, she bought the entire property from him and retrofitted the building into a cannabis retail shop.
“There’s been a lot of a lot of hard work and a lot of sweat equity, but we didn’t really have a lot to start with,” she says. “I’m just thankful to be in such a visible location.”
Now that American Harvest is set up for the future, Mirau has big plans for the 6.5-acre property on which the cannabis shop resides. She hopes to subdivide the property to bring in a variety of other businesses, including a helicopter company that provides aerial tours of the Cascade Mountains.
Although the local towns are sparsely populated, American Harvest benefits from being the closest cannabis retailer to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-styled tourist town about a mile down the road. Almost 2 million visitors come to Leavenworth each year, drawn to the shopping, nightlife, festivals and outdoor activities. The city’s Oktoberfest is the biggest in the state and its winter festivities are a hit with Americans and foreign visitors alike.
From January to March, American Harvest doesn’t see a lot of traffic.
“But from April through the rest of the year, it’s just constant tourism,” Mirau says.
To serve both the tourist market and the local community, it was really important to her to make sure American Harvest is a comfortable atmosphere.
“I think a lot of our tourists are really surprised with how welcoming and warm it feels,” she says. “First impressions are so important. I like to turn the stigma on its head and kind of disprove a lot of what makes people perceive cannabis to be this horrible, negative thing.”
– Homecoming: American Harvest owner Kelani Mirau actually applied for retail licenses in Vancouver, Washington, before making the jump to Chelan County, where she grew up. For the first few years of running American Harvest, she was living in Washougal and making a six-hour drive to the shop every other week. Since moving back to Chelan County, she is able to be more hands-on with the day-to-day operations.
– Organic growth: Mirau has been fortunate to grow her company without much advertising. “We’ve been able to gather a lot of our clientele by word of mouth,” she says.
– Although 52% of Chelan County residents voted in favor of 2012’s Initiative 502, the bill that legalized recreational cannabis in Washington, the county has imposed numerous restrictions on commercial marijuana activities, forcing many businesses to move and others to shutter their operations.
– One of the big challenges at American Harvest has been hiring, so to keep her best employees, Mirau offers full medical benefits and a retirement plan. “I really want this to be something where I have employees wanting to grow within the company,” she says. “I need to have continuity. Once I’m able to trust somebody, I want them to stay with me for a while.”
– And speaking of employees, Mirau says owes a great deal of credit to American Harvest manager Cindy McMahon. “She is incredibly important to me and has been there for me since the beginning of the store,” Mirau says.