Forbes: Vertically Integrated Cannabis Lifestyle Brand Oregrown Raises The Bar For 2020

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Last week, I made my way out to Oregon for the grand opening of the state’s newest cannabis retail establishment, the Portland Oregrown Flagship — an award-winning, vertically integrated cannabis lifestyle brand. The celebration included a special ribbon-cutting ceremony with the ever so dapper, sharp bow-tie sporting (not unlike the colorful ones I used to wear) Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a passionate voice for cannabis law reform. In typical Portland fashion, the sky issued a smile. Thanks to the universe for parting the clouds, if only for a scant moment, during the ebullient event. The black painted building, framed by luminous, inner-lit windows stood out against the teeming sky, brimming with effusive raindrops. Portland in the winter has a character of its own— rain falls now and later, and then it will rain again. Only tourists use umbrellas. It’s funny to notice the locals in all kinds of exotic rain gear, yet the tourists bump into each other with umbrellas and wet joints hanging from their mouths. Locals seize the opportunity to duck into a doorway and spark a bowl, which marks the difference. It’s part of a culture, you have to live here to notice.

The warmly lit building, located at 111 NE 12th Avenue, features high-end retail architecture and design —  developed over the course of eighteen months. It’s situated directly on the corner, surrounded by 24/7 construction of various forms from apartments, to small businesses, to other retail shops. A new city is rising all around and all these fresh residents and curious tourists require the very finest in craft cannabis. And craft cannabis is what Oregrown specializes in, not just as a store but as a culture. They are different, and I knew it from the moment I met the co-founders, husband and wife team Aviv and Chrissy Hadar. I am truly the lucky one to have shared a small meal and conversation with the duo the evening before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. We could have spoken for hours about the dream that they have created for themselves, their team and their guests. This beautiful new store is an incredible showcase of their execution. The cannabis business in Oregon is not for the faint! You have to be cut from the cloth that entrepreneurs talk about when the format is intangible. Founded in 2013, Oregrown made it through the tidal wave of the first five years of the industry with consistent year over year growth. In the face of well-capitalized out of state groups, they have been able to maintain, expand and become one of the most dominant brands in Oregon. It’s no easy feat.

In fact, the Bend, Oregon Flagship has been voted the Best Dispensary in Central Oregon every year since the store opened in 2015. Operating several stores (with two more on the way in Cannon Beach and Eugene) far away from each other requires massive thought. Who do you trust to run your business? Family, that’s who. Oregrown is a friend and family-founded/operated business. Keeping true with that ethos, the Oregrown team has done their best with little to no outside investment. In my book, there is no deeper commitment to quality and “getting it,” than family.

Oregrown offers top of the house in respect to quality cannabis and ancillary products. As in the wine business, the model for Oregrown is not to stress overall strength or potency of flower (unlike most dispensaries that stress THC levels over terroir). And Oregrown not only carries high quality accessories, but they have also forged a longstanding innovative partnership with PAX Labs. An original PAX partner, they launched the Era platform in 2017. Now, they’ve created an immersive PAX “store-in-a-store” experience featuring a personalized PAX Era engraving station and a unique customer education platform centered around interactive smart display technology.

Let me walk you through the experience. Upon examination and entry into the handsome store, you enter on the side and offer your driver’s license or state/government ID to the friendly and smiling person by the door. They scan you into the shop with a large fluffy white cloud coming down off the ceiling! What? A cloud? Well, yes. There is a cloud shaped feature that is suspended from the ceiling. It is white and amorphic in shape. This cloud-like sculpture raises your expectations of your experience with Oregrown and brings you to a higher level in life, that of Oregrown’s energy and kindness and reminds me of the motto I see on much of their apparel — ”Stay Lifted.”

The sides of the store are filled with their private-label clothing and accessories, fanciful and fun t-shirts and snowboarding gear, young and cutting edge, emblazoned with their tasteful logos (it may interest you to know that Oregrown tees have been seen on celebrities such as Andy Cohen and Lukas Nelson). The looming mountains are never too far away as I discovered when the clouds parted, even for a scant moment. There was Mt. Hood, looming over the periphery. It’s really impressive. That energy from the mountain fills the air, you cannot escape it. Perhaps that’s why Oregrown sponsors athletes (snowboarders, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and the like), which is a program that is the first of its kind. And, perhaps that’s why Oregrown produced the first all-Oregon snowboard film, Low Pressure. Everyone seems to breathe snowboarding in Oregon.

Moving past the impressive decor, stylish merchandise and PAX display, Oregrown’s cannabis is now my focus. With my attention set firmly on quality, I’m very impressed by the level of cannabis that Oregrown carries. There are craft brands in evidence, such as Evans Creek’s Animal Mints (my wake and bake this morning) consisting of 30.45% THC. I also took note of Oregon craft cannabis producers EUGREEN, with their brilliant and spicy Donny Burger, rolling in at 29.96% THC, or Focus North’s Now and Later, offering 25.94% THC, or my favorite from EUGREEN named Redneck Wedding, dribbling across my brain at 30.16% THC. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kush Cake from Pintail Gardens. That will charm me again some sunny day.

What craft cannabis serves to do is create a conversation. Why? Because Oregrown is different. They don’t market their cannabis by overall strength like most other cannabis dispensaries. Sure, there is a colorful illustration that exemplifies the cultivar, and of course there is the cultivar itself, shown crisply in Ball-type jars that pop on and off with alacrity. It is important to show and smell the herbs themselves, alas no touching please! And what about the THC content? Isn’t that important? Certainly it is, but it’s not the only topic for this conversation. What Oregrown does is create a dialogue between their guest and the plant itself. What Oregrown has done is create an energy field that attracts like-minded individuals who demand the finest cannabis in a legal, safe setting.

The dialogue between “budtender” and guest is every bit as intimate as that of a wine aficionado at a gourmet wine shop. Why? There is a conversation that ensues, certainly, about the physical aspects of the nugs, color, size, aromatics, effect, benefits, genealogy, what it tastes like. There are dozens of descriptors for cannabis and here, at the pinnacle of success, comes Oregrown’s utter commitment to quality and humor. Yes, humor because there is more to a sale than just taking a person’s hard-earned money. It is essential to develop trust. I worked closely with a young man simply named Crash. I’m sure that was not his given name, but perhaps it was? The Pacific Northwest offers a laissez-faire approach to life that is completely out of sorts against the east coast-centric life that I had growing up in New Jersey, so pardon my ignorance on names! Mr. Crash, you ruled the day with your easy-going smile and deeply conversational trust that you instilled into the sales experience. You shared with me a snapshot of your life and charmed me with your knowledge of our plant. When it was time to describe the cultivars, you did so with confidence, yet your knowledge was so deep that it came off as your passion— something shared without boasting. Ah, the magic of knowing something great and sharing it with a smile….it is this kind of team-member that Oregrown has nurtured. Maybe there are more like Crash at other stores in Portland. I certainly hope so.

Which brings me to the next part of the story. The founders of Oregrown are as passionate as the employees because this is a family business. And they treat their employees like family, too, by offering incentives like their Employee Stock Option Program, one of the first. The retail environment is increasingly competitive, especially with regard to the cannabis business. Out here on the West Coast, the development pressures make mom and pop ownership nearly impossible. Only national chains, financial services and cell-phone stores dictate the relevance of the overall shopping experience. Stores that adhere to a different intellect are few and far between. Oregrown is one of these outposts, bringing foot traffic to a neighborhood and revitalizing pathways through a city where car services have taken away the joy of walking. Their new Portland outpost is no longer off the beaten path, it’s a beacon with it’s bright lighting and welcoming appearance.

The memories I made along the way from my interaction with the employees of Oregrown, to meeting the founders, to sampling their fine cannabis made the overall experience one of pleasure and enjoyment. It was something unexpected, as is every trip I take to Portland. The energy is in flux in the traditionally touristed districts just across the river. Ironic that in a city as diverse as Portland, the place where I wanted to spend the most time was at Oregrown. It’s no wonder they are setting a high standard for every other cannabis company in this burgeoning market. Great job. Thank you.

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