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An Unsung Hero - The Essential BudtenderMindi Hall, Salem-News.com Cannabis De-Classified
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Jeramie Palmer, manager of the Sage Shop.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) -
Omak, with a population of approximately 5,000 people, is considered a large town by the locals. Residents of the area tend to live simply and operate at a slower pace than those from the ‘west side’ (Seattle).
As the largest town this side of Canada, with a few larger stores like Home Depot and Grocery Outlet, people from all over the county flock to Omak to stock up on supplies. However, the flavor of this town resides in the small local businesses sprinkled down Main Street.
For many flocking for supplies, cannabis is on the list of essential needs. Among the quaint businesses on Main Street, there they can find the Sage Shop.
Part of what makes the Sage Shop special is the community it serves. The people in the area are not strangers to adversity. The county, largely economically depressed, is still recovering from devastating widespread wildfires in 2015 that left many without homes and suffering from long term consequences.
The attitude of this rural community is that of survivors, ready for anything. After everything, they have lived through, the Coronavirus is just another hurdle to jump.
The evening news has highlighted glimpses of many businesses adjusting to the pandemic. In light of Covid-19 and the stubborn resilience of the surrounding community, I wondered how things might have changed for employees of what is now considered ‘essential’ in the state of Washington, the rural cannabis recreational store.
Local resident of nearly a decade, manager Jeramie Palmer, agreed to share his experience of navigating the waters between safety and customer service to help shine a light on what it is like to work in an essential business in rural America.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:MINDI: How does it feel to be the manager of a store considered essential at the state level, yet still federally not recognized?
JERAMIE: It feels great. I have always thought that there is a huge medical side to what we do, more than some people want to believe. And it's unreal to me that yes we are essential yet, federally it seems like they are still stuck in the past.
MINDI: Has the State of Washington provided support and guidance for operating safely? What changes have you made to help keep customers safe?
JERAMIE: I can always call the LCB (Liquor Control Board) and they always answer every question I have, if one should come up, but at our shop we just follow all the rules and do what they say, so we are cool with everyone.
We wash our hands constantly. We remind everyone to try to stay around 6 feet apart, and we have been cleaning constantly!! We’ve always cleaned, but since all of this we disinfect so much. Plus, we let customers call in before they come down, and we can have their bag ready.
As long as they are 21, we can take it out to their car if they want to avoid social contact. I like how clean the shop is and yes we will be keeping the shop a little more clean in the future.
MINDI: How has the Coronavirus affected you personally as an essential employee?
JERAMIE: Well me, myself, I have been super busy, like sales are way up and the inventory orders have been pretty slow, well more slow than normal. I also have an employee that takes care of his grandma, and she is a member of the at risk population.
He has stayed home ever since this started for her safety. Regardless of the obstacles, I have a really good crew and everyone has stepped up for me, the customers and the shop!
MINDI: How has the virus affected the availability of products?
JERAMIE: Well our number one selling product in the store shut their doors for a while and it was terrible. It is a very good product at a great price. And like I said all of the deliveries are super slow, I even had a local vendor so backed up it took almost 3 weeks to get their order and that's outrageous.
It's a lot more challenging to keep the public, the vendors and all the employees happy. It's actually kind of a juggling act. Number one, you have to know who comes to your shop. Knowing your customers is huge - that way I can order the kind of products they want.
I mean, I keep a variety of products from super affordable to higher priced top shelf brands. But here in this area, well, we aren't Seattle. Nobody has money like that so it pays to figure out what sells best. In this business the faster you can move products obviously the better for everybody!
At the end of the day my favorite part is when that little old lady comes in with terrible arthritis and tells me the cream I sold her is a life changer. I really do love that. [END]
I feel it is also worth noting, the Sage Shop has a hand-washing station set up outside the front door. As we have often heard, hand-washing is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from virus transmission.
It is the only hand-washing station that I have seen, within the town of Omak, added as a safety measure. As a community member, I am especially happy to see that the Sage shop values our health to the tune of this extra, and not required, expense.
Community has been an important focal point of the Sage Shop long before the pandemic hit. They have hosted community events, such as vendor days highlighting local businesses as well as Jury Rights Day and displays of local art.
As the new ‘normal’ evolves, it is my hope recreational shops such as Sage Shop will continue to go above and beyond for the health and safety of their customers and continue to be uplifting members of communities throughout the country.
The heart of the industry is health and wellness. Now is the time for the cannabis industry to rise up and show the nay-sayers why the industry is ‘essential’ to so many.
Behind the scenes, managers like Jeramie are responsible for countless unseen rules, regulations and general business operations in order to make sure consumers have access to the cannabis the farmers are growing.
The added pressure of virus prevention elevates cannabis store management and staff to hero level along with grocery store clerks and other essential employees.
Next time you go to your local cannabis recreational store, remember, in times like these, essential is great but it also could mean, exhausted, extra busy, short-staffed, inventory struggles and the like.
Be kind to your bud tenders. We are thankful for their service.
If you are in the Okanogan area and over 21, please feel free to visit the Sage Shop located at 309 N Main St, Omak, WA 98841 (509) 322-8090.
Mindi Hall, Writer is Co-founder at Voices Of The Cannabis War, Volunteer at Freedom Grow and Volunteer at CAN-DO Foundation - Justice Through Clemency. She has been a KBOO Community Radio Volunteer and Cchi2016 RADIO, Voices Of The Cannabis War Show. You can reach Mindi Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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