Like any small-town shop, the goal at the Cult. Cannabis Co. in Ferndale, Washington, is to make each customer’s experience at the store “unique.”
“It’s like ‘Cheers,’ you want to go where everybody knows your name,” manager Amanda Slusser says, citing the well-known theme song to the classic 1980s sitcom. “We know thousands of people’s names.”
That personalized experience and an “adamant” focus on customer service has helped Cult raise its profile to reach No. 4 in revenue out of 30 cannabis retailers in Whatcom County, which borders Canada in northwestern Washington.
The “laid back, industrial” look of the store, with its metal walls and wood accents draws customers of all types, from local refinery workers to farmers to college students and residents of Bellingham, the largest city in the county, 15 miles south.
“It’s kind of cool to see the demographic we get here, the diversity,” Slusser says.
And like the famous television bar, every visitor gets treated like family, she adds.
“For sure people come here to hang out with us,” she says with a laugh. “We second as therapists here.”
Slusser says part of the store’s appeal is in its wide selection of product, particularly given the constraints of the approximately 1,000-square-foot store. She says the store carries more than 1,500 different SKUs at any time and sometimes runs out of room to display everything.
“It’s walls and walls of product,” she says. “And if you can’t find it, we’ll get it for you.”
The shop originally opened in 2015 as Buds SOS, a play on the Navy Seals training school, known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL or “BUD/S,” chosen to reflect one of the owner’s naval background. But Slusser says the name “didn’t really fit our personality” and in 2016, it was changed to Cultivating Cannabis Collectives — or Cult. Cannabis Co., for short.
“We’ve been killing it ever since,” Slusser says.
Since 2019, in fact, the store has seen major growth, nearly doubling its monthly revenue over the course of the year and continuing to grow through 2020.
Slusser says the Cult team hopes to eventually expand by buying another of Washington’s limited retail licenses, but for now the company is focused on growing the business at its single shop and planning for a larger location in the near future.
“Hopefully a bigger store to accommodate more products,” she says.
Though now a big success and veteran player in the Whatcom County market, Cult. Cannabis Co. started practically on a whim for owners Peter and Emiko Grubb.
According to manager Amanda Slusser, Emiko Grubb put the couple’s name into the lottery for the only license originally allotted to Ferndale without telling her husband and then surprised him with the news after they won.
“Basically, she put in for the lottery and won it and went to her husband and was like, ‘well, we got a pot store now so here you go,’” Slusser says with a laugh.
According to Slusser, the store’s decision to stay open when other shops were shutting down during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic helped establish Cult among local shoppers. The company kept its doors open on March 16, 2020, leading to a near quadrupling of business as cannabis buyers flocked to Cult to stock up as other retailers shut down. The store had to close early that day as supplies ran low, but it marked the beginning of a steady sales increase through the year.
The store constantly runs sales and specials, particularly for members of its loyalty program, as part of its commitment to customer service. There are deals for members of “the Cult,” as well as daily specials and discounts for seniors, students, veterans and on a customer’s birthday. The store is also medically certified, and patients with a medical endorsement receive 20% off.