Owner puts The Top Shelf retail store up for sale, hopes windfall will fund vacation
By Garrett Rudolph
Florence Childs might be the last person one would expect to be running a marijuana retail store.
Now 82 years old, Childs didn’t have any retail experience to speak of before applying for a license in the winter of 2012, and she didn’t have the slightest interest in marijuana.
But now that Childs has put in the hard work and overcome the challenges of getting The Top Shelf in Airway Heights, Washington licensed and operational, she’s looking to sell the business so she can enjoy a re-retirement.
“I just figured if I’m going to retire again, it better be around now,” Childs said.
She has modest plans for her second retirement.
It’s time for her to trade in her old Audi for a newer model — “maybe a convertible this time,” she said.
Her children are scattered across the country from Alaska all the way down to Florida, so she’s got plenty of traveling to do to visit her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She wants to sell her home in the Spokane area, which requires a lot of yardwork and upkeep. She’s looking to buy a condo on a lake someplace where she can relax.
“I’ve done condo living before and I rather enjoy it,” she said.
She does have one splurge in mind. She hopes the windfall of selling The Top Shelf will be enough to allow her to fulfill her “ultimate dream” of taking a European cruise and visiting as many countries as she can, she said.
And maybe a fishing expedition back in Alaska, where she and her husband, Stan, had lived for about 30 years. Her husband, who ran an accounting firm before retiring, died three years ago.
“Man, could I have used him in this business,” Childs said.
“I lost Stan three years ago and I can’t help but think of how sweet it would have been to have him with me in this business.”
Her husband’s death was part of the reason she got involved in the cannabis industry in the first place.
“I think after my husband passed away, they thought maybe I was getting a little too comfortable by myself,” Childs said. “They felt I should be doing something. ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have your own little store?’ It was fun having my little store until I knew what it was going to entail.”
She said her children told her she was the luckiest person they knew.
When it came time for the retail lottery, “they said, ‘You’re sure to be selected,’” she recalled. “Lo and behold, I was.”
Although she looks forward to having more free time on her hands, she’s piloted the business through its toughest obstacles — the application process, winning the lottery, getting the license, running a cash-only business without a bank account and crossing all the typical hurdles for a start-up.
“Had I known what it entailed, I never would have tackled it. It would have been too mind-boggling for me,” she said.
The Top Shelf endured the meager months in early 2015, when the store first opened its doors. Revenue began as a trickle, but has grown steadily over the past eight months. The business topped $100,000 in revenue for the first time in May and has continued to climb.
“I can honestly see $500,000 by the end of the year,” she said. “I have nothing to go by, other than what the other stores are doing.”
By now, the store’s three employees run the business just fine when Childs isn’t around, she said.
“Sometimes when I go into the store early, I think, ‘What am I doing getting rid of this?’ Because it is fun,” she said.
She said the small staff has been a pleasure to work with, and she enjoys interacting with customers most of all. With a race track, casino and Walmart all nearby, the Airway Heights store attracts a fair amount of traffic from both travelers and the local community.
“They’re always so interested in the store, because a lot of them don’t have access to marijuana stores,” Childs said. “We’ve been so well received from the community. We even get celebrities who come in from the casino shows, and that creates a bit of ado for the store.”