Budding marijuana store is high on education, knowledge and giving back to the community
By Tami Jackson
With Tacoma’s rich soils, diverse climate and large-scale irrigation opportunities, a lot more besides Douglas fir, dandelions and grass grow rapidly here. In 2014, a little marijuana shop called Mary Mart proved just how fast a cannabis retailer could also sprout locally. After opening its doors with 800 square feet of sales floor space, just three years later the store has now flowered so much it accommodates 4,000 square feet of sales floor space and supports 34 employees (70 percent who work full-time) and the local marijuana business is rolling all the way to the bank.
“We’re a pretty large employer,” said owner Damien McDivitt. “We’ve got managers, assistant managers, purchasing agents, marketing agents, shift managers and shipping agents. We’ve also got five qualified medical consultants who are licensed by the Department of Health to get people into the medical marijuana registry.”
Laurie Volpe is part of Mary Mart’s medical staff and she said every day presents a learning experience for her. “I have customers who come in every single day who have a different feeling about their pain. Some just want to get the relief; they don’t want the high. Some want a little high or the euphoria they get from the THC but people my age and up are looking for the relief,” she said. “They don’t want to smoke it. They want to eat it or they want to rub it on. Some of them want to drink it. They’re terrified to smoke it nowadays because the weed is so much different than it was when they remember it.”
No Drama Marijuana
One customer told Volpe that she had been on opiates for the last 27 years and wanted to get away from using them. Volpe said her advice is: “Don’t just quit the opiates cold turkey. Taper down.” She also suggests that customers should find a cannabis product that works and to begin using it gradually as they slowly taper off whatever other drugs they want to quit. After four months, the woman returned to Mary Mart to tell Volpe that she was opiate-free. Her husband was also there and claimed his wife gets high off the CBD (which is something that doesn’t happen, medically speaking) but she stopped him midsentence to clarify “I’m not high. I just feel good!”
Looking back over the past three years, it’s pretty amazing to see how rapidly Mary Mart has grown. “We started out with one little register and one flower. Zenex was our first thing ever and we had it in grams and eighths and were out there trying to tell people that we were a marijuana store,” said McDivitt.
Prior to opening his store, McDivitt had been an airline pilot for 15 years until he saw the original legislation for recreational marijuana just begin taking effect in Washington. “I thought it was an amazing thing to jump in at the end of prohibition for any product,” he said. “It was exciting. I had tried small business ventures in the past and this one seemed like it had real good legs so I jumped in and bought some of the ‘lottery tickets’ right off the bat there for different areas in the state. I live here in Tacoma so, coincidently, the one that I got was here in the city and it’s awesome. I’m proud to be here in the city where I’ve lived for a long time.”
According to McDivitt, after his marijuana dispensary started out with just basically the cannabis flower, concentrates were the next product to hit the scene and then edibles, which started out with just a cookie. “Then, suddenly, as the months and year came on, you saw larger branded companies come on like DB3 with the Zoots brand for products and Verdelux with edible candies,” McDivitt said.
McDivitt said that anyone who stepped into an early pot shop right off the bat in 2014 would have seen products marketed in really simple Mylar bags with a stamp on it that included a number and all the legal terminology. Now when someone enters these stores they’re seeing branded products that are well beyond anything someone sees even in a convenience store. “Just the beauty of the branding and marketing that’s available in cannabis dispensaries today is amazing,” he said. “The work these marketers are doing offers a huge service to the industry.”
McDivitt said that Oregon and parts of Colorado don’t offer the high-end branded beautiful products that you see in Washington. “The way they did their marijuana laws in those states is just different than the laws here,” he said. In Oregon, the marijuana shops operate in more a deli-style where their flower is sold by scale weight and bagged at the time of purchase. There’s no packaging to build brand recognition or keep the product fresh; unlike here where bags are often sealed with nitrogen to prevent oxygen degeneration.
The Mary Mart store now has such an open flow and feel to it. The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has so many rules regarding what a customer can smell and touch inside a marijuana dispensary so Mary Mart is designed uniquely to allow consumers to see as many products on display as possible without actually touching them.
Can’t go wrong with a good pipe, rolling papers or bong
In addition to offering a variety of consumables, Mary Mart also sells paraphernalia and it’s mostly in blown glass. “We still carry a little bit of the metal, wood and stone products for the old school mindset that really traditionally like those type of products but for the most part it’s glass boransilica,” McDivitt said. “There’s a freedom of expression with using glass, as an art form, which is amazing too.”
According to McDivitt, at any given moment Mary Mart might have on display everything from a $1 pipe, which is easy to replace if you break it, up to a $1,500 glass boransilica pot pipe, with unique design and personality.
The store has a smoking viewpoint
Immediately when a customer walks in through the front doors at Mary Mart, it’s easy to see the many menu boards that line the walls. Among those menu boards are six that list more than 400 strains of various whole flowers, distinguishing the sizes between bulk and one-gram units. The other boards list all of Mary Mart’s concentrates, including the available baked products.
“We have too many edible products to even fit on a board so those are all on menu form over here,” McDivitt said. “We have one of the largest topical lines in the city and, I believe, within the state. It’s huge. As you can see our whole back wall is basically all edible products and topicals.”
The displays directly behind the budtender counters are laid out something like a series of end-caps at a grocery store with colorful packages for edibles hanging from metal hooks in clear sight. Yet between each partitioning wall, customers can see the second wall with shelving. That area looks much like a pharmacy, where all the topicals are on display.
Taking it all in and then passing it down the line
In addition to being a great employer, and selling an enormous variety of product and paraphernalia, Mary Mart is also out in the community promoting local events such as live music, live comedy and live entertainment. “We are a well-rounded community store,” McDivitt said. “We support local events and have a bunch of different shows that we back and promote.” Mary Mart was the major sponsor of Brew Five Three this year but they sponsor the Gritty City Sirens (a burlesque show) and the Dope Show, which is a comedy club. Mary Mart also sponsors Tight Wad Tuesdays at Tacoma Comedy Club, Jazzbones, which involves live music, and the cannabis store sponsors another comedy show at Java Jive.
For more information about Mary Mart, stop by the store at 3002 6th Ave., visit the store online at marymart.com or give the store a call at (253) 507-4735.