SEATTLE — Ryan Kunkel was working as a blackjack dealer in a shady card room, before making the life-changing decision to open the first Have a Heart medical dispensary in 2011. By the time Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, Kunkel was operating six dispensaries.
Business: Have a Heart
Owner: Ryan Kunkel
Operations: Five Washington retail stores
Locations: Ocean Shores and Seattle (Belltown, Fremont, Greenwood and Skyway)
In the medical market, Kunkel made enough money to dive seamlessly into Washington’s retail market without any funding from outside investors, but missed out on the initial license lottery.
After scouring the state for a license, he finally managed to open a marijuana retail store in Ocean Shores. Now, he’s about to open a store in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. It will be the fifth rec shop in the Have a Heart family, in addition to Seattle stores in Greenwood, Skyway and Fremont.
Have a Heart Belltown is possibly the most centrally-located shop in Seattle. Situated in the cavernous space that once housed the nightclub See Sound Lounge, the retail store has an enviable amount of floor space. Seattle’s downtown area doesn’t have any cannabis shops, so the proximity to tourist destinations bodes well for Kunkel’s new location.
Have a Heart Belltown is less like a retail store and more like an immersive cannabis culture experience. The space has a candy-colored mural, and various props include a seven-foot-long joint that glows red on one end.
The latest Have a Heart location almost didn’t open due to changes to Seattle’s zoning laws. When Kunkel bought out the nightclub that occupied the space, it was far enough away from any restricted entities, such as schools and parks, which require a 1,000-foot buffer according to state law.
However, the City Council reduced buffer zones to 250 feet in Belltown, making Kunkel’s shop too close to a neighboring dog park. He petitioned the council and the rule was ultimately adjusted, allowing him to open.
“We had to do some crafty work,” Kunkel said. “The City Council wanted to allow it, but the dog park was prohibiting it.”
Although Kunkel has successfully opened several rec shops, it hasn’t been without hurdles, including letting go of 80% of his work force while transitioning from medical to recreational. All Have a Heart locations will continue to serve both recreational customers and medical patients.