Oregon’s Oasis Dispensary stores are not the biggest or fanciest cannabis shops in the state, but business is always brisk, and the three shops even draw regular customers from as far away as 100 miles.
Located in the small communities of Monmouth, Newberg and Seaside, each of the quaint Oasis shops was designed to reflect its surrounding community. But the real difference-maker that allows Oasis to stand out among its peers is the chain’s focus on what is possibly the most crucial element in a retail environment: customer service.
Co-founder Sherry Bateman calls customer service the company’s “secret ingredient” and says she expects Oasis budtender to be “the best.”
“The quality of our people is just as important as the quality of our products,” she says.
That means not only being knowledgeable about the products, but also fitting in with the team as whole and treating everyone with respect. To be hired, potential budtenders “must have is a genuine liking for people, how to hear them and how to treat them.”
“We demand they be respectful of each other as well,” says Sherry, who is president of Dispensrve, the company that owns Oasis. “We’ve got to be nice to each other. And it’s contagious.”
She says both the shop and its employees “exude casual happiness,” which is why there’s always lively music playing (budtenders’ choice), to accompany the personal greeting and attention customers receive when they walk inside the store. There are also fun moments, like those random days at 4:20 when everyone in the store gets a prize, like a lighter, a water bottle, piece of glassware or even something a little more relevant.
“It was especially well-received one day when a sudden rainstorm hit and I provided everyone with our beanies at 4:20,” Sherry says, “with our logo on them, of course.”
The company’s loyalty program also rewards every visit, purchase or not, with points toward the opportunity to win one of the store’s “Message in a Bottle” prizes. Customers have their choice from a selection of glass tubes located in a treasure chest and contain gift cards up to $100 for local businesses like movies, nail salons, restaurants and more.
The Oasis Dispensary story begins in the medical era, when Sherry’s son-in-law had a small, medical grow. When Oregon voted to legalize recreational marijuana, Sherry and a friend were talking about the quality of his grow and their own business experiences, and the idea for a business plan began to emerge. Sherry met her business partner, Brian Bergman, during a local city council discussion concerning rules and regulations for cannabis businesses. Her son-in-law and daughter, Kyle and Stephanie Schlip, are also partners in the stores.
The first two stores, in Seaside and Newberg, opened in 2015.
“We knew it was destined to do well when my grandson was born on April 20 of that year,” Sherry says.
The third shop, in Monmouth, opened in 2016.
“We are now thriving,” she says. “Our stores have seen a steady growth in sales and popularity.”
There was a learning curve, of course, with plenty of challenges, like finding the right people to help build the culture of the company and keeping up with the latest cannabis products and brands. The company also had an attempted break-in at the Seaside store soon after opening that didn’t quite go as the would-be burglar might expect.
“The fellow neglected to glance across the street at the police department and our many cameras surrounding our building,” Sherry says with a smile.
The Oasis mission statement has evolved to include “education, efficiency and positivity.” The company takes pride in its communities and regularly donates to local charities though programs like matching employee tips for donations to the homeless.
“We are actively engaged in our community with clothing and food drives, every winter, as well,” she says.
The Oasis team is constantly educating themselves and their customers about the wide variety of cannabis products available to ensure that the shops can meet the needs of customers, whether they’re looking for flower, vapes, dabs, topicals or edibles.
“And we are still learning of new products coming out of the cannabis plant daily,” says Sherry. “We thought we knew all there was to know about ‘pot’ when we started out.”
There is also a focus on building relationships with the people involved in cannabis, as way to help get the word out and support the industry as a whole. Sherry says she looks forward to getting back to those days in a post-COVID world.
“We went to every available cannabis conference, most months of the year, to meet with possible vendors, and it was a great way to sample new products,” she says. “The social interaction is missed.”
Sherry, a former paralegal who came out of retirement to open the stores, says parsing the everchanging rules and regulations of legal cannabis has been challenging, but today she calls them “blips on the radar” and says she enjoys the family atmosphere with her employees at the store and wants the small chain to be a “legacy” she can leave for her children and grandchildren.
“Cannabis is a new industry, always fascinating, and I love it,” she says.