Chain Reaction: Chalice Farms

A handful of Oregon retail chains have quickly become some of the biggest cannabis companies in the highly competitive state

With nearly 600 current stores and another 981 applications in the pipeline, Oregon’s retail cannabis environment is one of the most diverse and competitive in the country, due in part to the lack of a cap on licenses, a longstanding medical program and regulations that allow for out-of-state ownership and investment. Portland alone has a citywide average of more than one store per square mile.

But even in a market as difficult and crowded as Oregon’s, several chains have established themselves as market leaders, cutting through the noise to achieve dominance in the retail category.

While the vast majority of Oregon cannabis companies have only a small handful of stores, there are 11 that have five or more retail licenses. Though they come from vastly different backgrounds and built their businesses through elaborate designs, pervasive marketing, aggressive expansion or smart buying decisions, all are doing something to resonate with consumers in the Beaver State.

Marijuana Venture checked in with some of the largest chains in the state to see how they rose to the top and what they have planned for the future.

Changing the Perception

William Simpson lives by a simple philosophy: If you’re going to do something, do it 100% or find another line of work.

According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission 11 businesses have more than five retail licenses in the state. Marijuana Venture reached out to all 11 and profiled the businesses available to participate in the feature article.

Nectar

Classy, competitive and the largest vertically integrated retail chain in Oregon.

No. of retail licenses: 14

LaMota

Vertically integrated with large selection and competitive prices.

No. of retail licenses: 10

Hi Cascade

Wide variety of local products in a traditional dispensary setting.

No. of retail licenses: 8

Chalice Farms

Vertically integrated with rustic, traditional retail shopping experience.

No. of retail licenses: 6

Electric Lettuce/Serra

Beautifully designed, offering experiential retro and posh shopping atmospheres.

No. of retail licenses: 4/2

Five Zero Trees

Vertically integrated, Oregon-centric, celebrates local cannabis culture.

No. of retail licenses: 6

Sweet Relief

Northeastern Oregon chain with a small-town and homespun feel.

No. of retail licenses: 5

Attis Trading Co.

Western-themed, apothecary with plans for national expansion.

No. of retail licenses: 5

Cannabliss & Co.

Longstanding medical roots with historic and community-centric locations.

No. of retail licenses: 5

West

Oregon’s newest dispensary chain opened in 2018 with five retail licenses.

No. of retail licenses: 5

Mr. Nice Guy

Colorful atmosphere with a variety of unique, cozy locations.

No. of retail licenses: 5

“I don’t know anything else,” says Simpson, the founder of Chalice Farms and CEO of its parent company, Golden Leaf Holdings. Chalice Farms now has six retail stores in Oregon, in addition to operations in Nevada, California and Canada. The company recently completed its most successful quarter ever, bringing in $3.7 million in revenue, a $600,000 jump from the first quarter of 2018.

Simpson’s “all-or-nothing” approach is what led a small-scale medical marijuana grower to establish a growing cannabis empire over the course of the past two decades. Simpson got his start in the cannabis industry as a medical patient and grower in 1999.

“I got really lucky and ran into a horticulture professor who saw my passion for it and took me under his wing,” Simpson says. “I did basically a four-year clandestine botany internship.”

Cultivation led to consulting and designing production facilities and eventually to retail. Throughout this evolution, he’s been focused on changing the perception of cannabis.

“I wanted it to be viewed as an alternative to the different medicines that people use on a daily basis,” he says. “Instead of taking Advil or Ambien or Valium or Vicodin, cannabis can be a healthier alternative.”

The look and feel of Chalice Farms’ retail locations was critical to accomplishing his goal.

In the early stages of Oregon’s medical marijuana dispensary program, many retail outlets “felt like you were doing something criminal or it was just a real sterile, uncomfortable environment,” Simpson says.

He set out to change that.

“My vision with Chalice Farms was to create an environment that was warm, welcoming and beautiful, where people come in and feel at home,” he says. “We were so fanatical about that that I actually bought whole burl trees and custom-built all of our own furniture. We went and picked out the actual Kelvin temperature of the lighting so that it was most similar to fire light, because it’s pretty hard to walk into a fire-lit cabin and feel uncomfortable. We went through a lot higher level of work to try to create that environment where people were very comfortable. And then you can change people one at a time. That person who was against cannabis or was scared of it, and you educate them, you turn that person around and they’ll tell 10 of their friends.”

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