By Patrick Wagner
ANACORTES, Wash – As one of the first cannabis retailers in the nation to be built from the ground up, High Society was also designed to become one of the biggest and classiest retailers in the state.
After a long search through existing retail storefronts and buildings that were available for rent, owners Jason and Maria Kitzman determined exactly what they didn’t want their business to be. After careful planning and research, the couple decided their best option was to build a retail store from the ground up.
“What we were finding was that there were a lot of landlords that just wanted to stick it to us,” Jason Kitzman said. “They had these crap little locations that they wanted three times the amount of rent for and we were in a position where we didn’t have to do that.”
The Kitzmans found a three-acre lot in Anacortes, Washington and took full advantage of the size of the property. They built a 2,000-square-foot, emerald green-colored retail space, and dedicated about half of the floor plan to allowing customers to relax and visit. The store provides its guests with couches to lounge around on, a coffee and tea area complete with munchies, and hand-picked artwork for customers to peruse during their visit.
“I wanted people to walk in and go, ‘Wow this is really nice,’” Jason Kitzman said. “I wanted people to feel comfortable, not feel like they’re walking into a jail and getting carded or going to this little hole-in-the-wall that isn’t safe.”
Additionally, the extra space on the property has been zoned for a grow facility at some point in the future. If the size of High Society weren’t enough to impress, the retail operation has also customized the interior décor and employee dress code to encompass a Roaring Twenties speakeasy that reflects the height of luxury from a bygone era.
General manager Rachael Schaut said the idea for the décor and dress code was dreamt up by the team as a way to make their customers feel like they had just walked into a general store or speakeasy in the ‘20s.
Schaut and her team at High Society have been able to make big-picture design decisions for the store, due in part to the Kitzmans’ democratic business philosophy.
Schaut said staff meetings have a “knights at the roundtable’” approach, where everyone gives their opinions of how things run and what changes they’d like to see. Schaut said they discuss all topics as a team and implement changes everybody agrees upon.
“Everything we do is a community effort,” Schaut said.
The roundtable and steady dialogue plays a vital role between the Kitzmans, who own and operate a chiropractic practice in nearby Burlington, and the team at High Society.
That management style allows the Kitzmans to operate both businesses separately without being overwhelmed by the day-to-day decisions and tribulations.
Now the Kitzmans are ready to begin working on their second storefront in Burlington. Jason Kitzman said they will be designing their second location to be an exact replica of their Anacortes building, except even larger so it can house a shop dedicated to ancillary merchandise.
Schaut said the team is eager to see the expansion unfold and new team members arrive.
“It’s the best job in the world with the coolest people to work with,” Schaut said. “All of us here have to set our alarms to leave work everyday because we’ll get too caught up and then realize, ‘Oh wait, I’m off work.’”