South Whidbey now home to two recreational pot shops

South Whidbey’s second recreational marijuana retailer will open its doors to the public today.

The store, named Island Herb, is located in Freeland at 5565 Vanbarr Place, Unit F.

Doors open at 11 a.m.

Island Herb is owned by a veteran of the South Whidbey marijuana business scene, Lucas Jushinski. He owns Island Alternative Medicine in Freeland, which was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open on Whidbey Island back in 2012. The old storefront previously used by Island Alternative Medicine is where Island Herb is located.

An Iraq War veteran and combat corpsman who was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 2008, Jushinski said his focus is providing a medical service to those who need the herb for medicinal purposes, much like himself. A portion of his profits are reinvested into organizations he passionately believes in, including the Veterans Resource Center.

With the forced closing of medical dispensaries throughout the state due to Washington Initiative 502, which is slated to happen at the end of June according to Jushinski, he had no other option than to tap into the recreational market in order to continue his service to the medical marijuana community.

“Although there is another recreational store in Bayview, I’m currently serving a different community than their clientele base— the medical community,” Jushinski said. “I’ll still have that clientele base here at Island Herb.”

Neither Jushinski nor Whidbey Island Cannabis Company General Manager Carly Houghton are concerned the market won’t support two recreational marijuana shops on South Whidbey. When Jushinski started Island Alternative Medicine years ago, he didn’t expect how popular the store would be.

“I was surprised how many people came in, I just didn’t have any idea the demand was so high,” Jushinski said. “Cannabis has been illegal for so many years and many people have been hiding their cannabis use during that time, but we are starting to see people come out of the closet so to speak.”

That seems to be the general consensus as well, as demand is higher than one would expect, even getting seemingly higher by the week, according to Houghton.

Data on Whidbey Island Cannabis Company’s monthly sales support claims of high demand. The numbers are provided by www.502data.com, which is a private website that uses revenue numbers supplied by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Sales have improved with each month since opening in late 2014, other than one-off slow months like January 2016 and June 2015, with sales finishing at $116,761 for February and $122,240 in March of this year.

The demand is so steady that Whidbey Island Cannabis Company won’t change business tactics even in light of their new competitor, and Houghton believes there is room for two recreational stores in South Whidbey as long as there aren’t ugly pricing battles.

“We will keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing all along,” Houghton said. “It’s been working perfectly fine. We have a lot of regulars, and it’s actually an older clientele base which is surprising to most.”

Jushinski is confident his years of experience within the medical dispensary scene will make the transition to the recreational marijuana scene smooth and competitive. According to Jushinski, Island Herb will offer some different products to customers, including a wider selection of vaporizers and locally blown glass, or paraphernalia.

“Since many people within the medical community actually don’t like smoking, we will have a large selection of vaporizers to choose from,” Jushinski said.

In an effort to compete with Whidbey Island Cannabis Company, Jushinski is hoping to create a warm, cozy and welcoming environment for customers. The storefront features large, sleek couches and a massive coffee table that gives the store a distinct living room vibe. The space, which is a bit larger than 1,000 square feet, is finished off with hanging glass terrariums and a wooden design near the checkout area, with shelves offering storage and leaving a clean finishing touch. According to Jushinski, the interior was done by a Seattle-based designer.

Jushinski hopes to channel his years of experience in the medical realm to create a shop that carries the highest quality of cannabis for customers. While many of the recreational pot growers are new to him since he is new to the recreational community, he is confident it won’t be a problem since his selected store manager has worked in the recreational scene for the past year.

With business at Island Alternative Medicine strong over the past few years, Jushinski is confident Island Herb will be even better as marijuana becomes less and less taboo and legally accessible. Success to him is measured by the community’s needs, according to Jushinski.

“My main concern is whether or not I’m meeting the community’s needs,” Jushinski said. “Am I meeting that goal? Yes. Regarding finances, yes, we’ve been doing well and I’ve been able to continue giving back to the community by reinvesting in the organizations I believe in.”

 

links to past stories about Jushinski’s donations:

http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/community/264483021.html

http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/281521841.html