Just south of town, the island’s second cannabis store, Kush21, opened last week.
The owner of the store is Michale Beraki, who also owns another store by the same name in Burien and is planning on opening three others, as he has a total of five licenses.
His store in Burien carries the largest selection in the state of Washington, he said, and does more than $500,000 worth of business each month. Beraki does not expect sales on Vashon to be that brisk, but he said that he still intends to offer a wide variety of products.
“A huge variety, we value that,” he said last week. “When you are opening up a shop, selection matters.”
Beraki moved to the United States from Eritrea more than 10 years ago and has started quite a few businesses, he said, including a liquor store, a non-emergency medical transportation company, a money-transfer company, and now he has ventured into selling cannabis.
“It’s the most interesting and the most exciting,” he said, noting that with most other businesses, rules and regulations have long been set, but that the legal cannabis industry is still developing. “We are in the Wild West.”
Kush21 is located in the island’s former courtroom, which most recently held the Vashon-Maury Island Cooperative Preschool. Islander Tom Bangasser owns the building; Beraki’s connection with Bangasser is how he ended up doing business on the island.
Beraki said he was one of Bangasser’s tenants in a building in Seattle’s Central District, and Beraki asked him if he had any other spaces he could rent.
“He used to tell me how wonderful Vashon was,” he added.
Originally, Beraki obtained a license for the Sheffield Building, but he considered it a place holder, as he never intended to open there.
“Once this became viable, we relocated,” he said.
Now with the doors open at the business on Vashon, he said he intends to hire locals and include local products among the store’s range of offerings.
At the store last week, employees were quick to provide assistance and described the products, ranging from smokable weed to concentrates, edibles and bath bombs to body rubs.
Eric Latta, the store’s inventory manager, said educating customers, including those for whom using cannabis is new or a long-distant memory, is important at the store. He noted that some staff are qualified to offer advice on products that may help with medical conditions, although the store is licensed as a recreational marijuana store.
“It is our job to teach people,” he said.
Some on Vashon have questioned if the island can support two marijuana stores.
“The market will tell,” Beraki said last week. “But we are here to stay.”