Even after Initiative 502 passed a few years back, the stigma of selling cannabis was still very much in the minds of those in the community. Folks tended to think of dingy “Green Cross” storefronts in sketchy parts of town. However, Tedd Wetherbee, owner of The Gallery chain of cannabis stores, looked to change all that.
“After retiring and moving to Gig Harbor,” recalled Wetherbee, “I saw the writing on the wall in terms of I-502 passing. With that in mind, I set out to see where I could position myself to take part in this brand new industry. I mean, how many times does one get to be not only part of a new industry but get to shape it as well?”
To that end, Wetherbee created a clean cannabis shop that more resembles an art gallery than a pot store. “Our concept was an art gallery that sells marijuana,” he said. “We wanted everyone that comes in to feel like they have something to look at and appreciate. Retail does not have to be about ‘get them and get them out.’ Marijuana itself is about peace and happiness and how better to provide that than to surround our customers with gorgeous art pieces and accessories.”
In order to maintain that peace and happiness, Wetherbee stresses the importance of customer service to all his employees. “At The Gallery we take the time to discuss each individual’s personal needs,” he said. “If you’re a first time user or coming back after a decades long break from [cannabis], we will walk you through every aspect of what you need to know and answer all of your questions. We enjoy interacting with all of our customers. I mean, everyone is always so happy and nice that it’s hard not to want to chat with each person that comes in.”
Wetherbee believes that taking care of employees has also positively contributed to the success of his concept. The Gallery currently employs 62 people with an average wage well above the state required minimum. “We provide a 401k that we match at 4 percent monthly and this year we are tirelessly working on getting much needed health care for our entire team at no charge to them.”
The Gallery’s business approach is apparently working. They have opened their third location in Puyallup’s South Hill in March of this year, with another location coming soon to Fife. Wetherbee attributes some of this success to the welcoming accessibility of age ranges not usually thought of when talking about recreational cannabis use. “Our demographic varies immensely,” he said. “While most people try to associate marijuana with the younger generation, it’s interesting to note that over 50 percent of our customers are over the age of 49, and 50 percent of those are over the age of 59.”
Wetherbee also believes that the success of The Gallery, and other recreational cannabis stores, has made a positive impact to the state of Washington. “It’s important to understand what this industry has done at the state level and the local level,” he said. “Tax revenue is huge, which is great, but what most people don’t take into consideration is the impact it’s having on organized crime and the black market. The legal market has taken $1.8 billion (yes, with a B) off the streets and out of the hands of dealers and cartels, and by doing so generated $564 million in tax revenue for the state while providing the people of Washington safe access to [marijuana].”
The Gallery currently has three locations. They are:
Tacoma at 3005 Pacific Ave. S., (253) 531-4000; Spanaway at
21802 Mountain Hwy. E., (253) 375-7840; and South Hill Puyallup at 11821 Canyon Rd. E., (253) 604-4360. Also visit http://www.thegalleryco.com.