Mike Hayes runs several successful businesses in Central Oregon, but that doesn’t prevent some of his former colleagues from razzing him about his latest venture.
Long before opening Miracle Greens, a marijuana retail store in Bend, Hayes spent 10 years in the Marine Corps., eventually rising to the rank of captain. Now 16 years removed from his time as an officer in the Marines, he still has many friends serving in the armed forces. When asked about the possibility of publishing a photo of him in uniform, Hayes responds with a laugh.
“Hell no,” he says. “My friends are all colonels now. It’s pretty funny how they are already like, ‘Oh, what’s up Captain Haze? Now you’re slinging weed, huh?’ They’d love it.”
But all jokes and punny nicknames aside, Hayes’ background as an officer in the Marine Corps and his experience in Bend’s competitive restaurant market, have positioned him as a leader among Oregon’s emerging recreational cannabis industry.
Hayes left the Marines with enough education, drive, discipline and leadership skills to take him almost anywhere. After receiving his MBA and working for three years in Silicon Valley, he decided San Francisco didn’t feel like the right place to raise a family.
“So, I said, ‘If I could live anywhere, where would I want to live?’” he recalls.
That question brought him to Bend.
“You can’t beat it,” he says.
Hayes, a native Oregonian and Oregon State University graduate, loves living in a haven for outdoor recreational activities. In the winter, he uses his family’s farm as a ski house, with the nearby slopes of Mount Bachelor boasting some of the top skiing in the entire Pacific Northwest. During the sunnier months, Hayes works on his golf game as a member of Tetherow Golf Club, hopeful that enough practice on the links-style course will bring down his handicap.
“This area is nothing but recreation,” he says. “If you’re not in the service industry, then you’re doing something Internet-related in Bend. It’s like Boulder. Everybody’s healthy and running around. It’s an awesome place to raise kids.”
A true local, Hayes regularly jogs six miles across town, which he says is to counteract his love of sweets.
Miracle Greens is the fifth business he’s started in Central Oregon. His wife, Amber, also owns a yoga studio about three miles down the road.
Miracle Greens’ newly remodeled, 2,500-square-foot building fits in right alongside the Patient Angler Fly Shop. It’s one of more than 20 cannabis businesses serving the area, but Hayes is familiar with highly competitive industries. Hayes has been serving locals and tourists in Bend for the past 13 years as the owner of Maverick’s Country Bar, Tumalo Tavern, Cascade West and Red Dog Depot.
“I survived a recession in the restaurant industry,” he says, “and it sounds a little weird, but I remember sitting there cleaning the bathrooms in my bigger bar one morning and thinking, ‘This is awesome. I’ve got a master’s degree and I’m cleaning a toilet.’ But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and my employees know I would never ask them to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.”
Miracle Greens was designed with an open and welcoming atmosphere in mind.
“It’s kind of a pseudo cigar/coffee shop where there is no waiting room. You just walk right in,” Hayes says. “It’s not normal by any means for Oregon.”
Many cannabis retail stores still resemble a medical dispensary, where patients sign in and wait in a lobby before meeting with a budtender.
“You walk into the sales room and you see the menu and you say to yourself, ‘I don’t really know if I want anything,’” Hayes says. “But you already feel committed, right? You’ve already checked in and waited in line. I didn’t want that. I wanted people to walk in. By law we don’t have to check somebody’s ID until they go to the counter and try to buy something.”
Immediately inside Miracle Greens, there’s an information lounge with leather chairs, a coffee table and plenty of reading materials. At the back of the store, behind large wooden pillars, is a long, apothecary-style sales counter lined with glass jars of flower.
Hayes also displays his margins to be transparent with customers.
“We have to educate our customers that the price has nothing to do with the quality of the cannabis,” he says. “It has everything to do with how much the farm charges us.”
Miracle Greens will be growing its own flower soon at a new, 3,600-square-foot Ceres greenhouse located on the Hayes family farm.
“My dad and I laugh now, because I have a farm that just got approved and in 44 years this is the first time the property will actually make money,” Hayes says.
Hayes is following through on his business plan to open the retail operation first, so he’ll always have a place to sell his own cannabis. Influenced by his experience as a barkeeper, he believes it’s important to give customers a wide variety of options and never expects his internal brand to supersede established favorites.
“As a business, you just have to keep in mind that there’s always going to be two tap handles: there’s going to be craft and your domestic,” he says.
The same could be said of cannabis: customers range from connoisseurs to bargain shoppers and everything in between. Hayes has 18 tap handles at his bar in Bend and more than 30 strains at Miracle Greens, so there’s always something for everybody.
And despite the competitive nature, Hayes says he supports Bend’s other locally owned cannabis shops.
“We’ve got to stick together to make sure the big boys don’t come in and overwhelm the little mom-and-pop shops,” Hayes says.[contextly_auto_sidebar]