Retailer Spotlight -Hemlock
Interview with Bryan Garrison - HEMLOCK Company, Whittier CA.
Give us a brief history on your stores and what got you started in carrying CBD.
Hemlock Company opened its doors in 2015 as a “high-end” boutique style Vape shop. We have always dealt with quality products and were never your typical Vape Shop. When most shops carried 100’s of products, we would carry 20-30 products that were of the highest quality and brands that stood behind their products.
A couple years ago I introduced CBD to the shop to test the market as well as personally tried it for the first time. It was a game changer for myself personally and I started to see the potential in what it could do in the shop. Since then we have grown to transition into only CBD/Hemp products at my first location as well as expand with a second location that’s is full CBD/Hemp products as well. In an industry that I personally believe requires professionalism, Quality, customer service and knowledge, it was an easy fit for us.
What Brands are you currently selling?
Hemlock Company currently carries brands such as: Soil and Seed, Charlotte’s Web, Papa & Barkley, Bluebird Botanicals, Trust the Earth Hemp Flower, MedTerra, Suzies Lavender, One Love Tea, Dope Dog, WYLD Gummies, etc. We carry about 25 brands at the moment and consistently stock what our customers need.
What should brands know before they approach you on carrying their products & what do you look for before you carry a new line?
Brands should know that we take our products seriously. We always want to make sure that the brands we carry, or potentially carry, not only have third party COA’s for a finished product but for raw materials as well. Warnings and information about the products should alway be checked to make sure brands are following industry standards and guidelines. Since regulations are not in place at the moment it is very important to us.
Approach is everything, the market is flooded and there has to be something that sets a brand apart from the rest, wether that is the manufacturing process, packaging, back stories, etc. The first think I look for when considering a brand is packaging and branding. Hemlock Company has a standard that we intend to uphold and it has to have the professionalism for the sake of our customers. Our first step Is usually receiving digital/physical catalogues to experience the marketing and representation of the brand as well as COA’s. From there if our interest is sparked we request samples to try the product amongst the staff and see what the overall thought on it is.
What category of product is doing well for you? Ingestibles, flower, tinctures ?
At the moment topicals and tinctures are huge, lately we’ve started to see a huge spike in flower. Flower was slow to move at first in both shops and now its starting to take off.
Have you had any hurdles with your local city about selling CBD? If so what did you do to solve them?
So far things have been pretty smooth. I have had the first location since 2015 so the name has been in Whittier, CA and I have made relationships with many people to help establish what we offer. There was one mishap where they raided my shop due to a local complaint that we were a dispensary. They quickly found out that wasn’t the case and have had no problems since then. Surrounding cities aren’t so “approving” of Hemp/CBD at the moment. It took me 6 months to find a location for the second store because of either landlords not wanting CBD in their units or because cities didn’t allow it. I finally ended up opening at the complete other end of Whittier bordering two surrounding cities. So I breezed through the city since I was already established in Whittier.
Have you had any hurdles with your banking / merchant accounts for CBD? How were these problems solved?
At first we lost credit card processing because we were selling CBD products. Which was resolved pretty quickly with switching to Elevan, then the whole Elevan mishap happened and we lost it again! Then I lost my Workers Comp Insurance shortly after. Things have honestly opened up tremendously for the industry. We have legit processing, we were able to get Workers comp back in action before the policy end. Banking has been a little tricky but Credit Unions are starting to work with Hemp which is great. So all in all it’s getting easier.
How are sales, growing? Flattened?
Sales for 4Q 2019 were off with the holidays. We stayed steady. So far January has been off to an amazing start and we are starting the new year off right!
What do you do to engage with your community and educate them about CBD? How do you get the word out about your locations within your local community?
Education of CBD is huge for us. Not only do we make sure that the customer understands CBD and how it works, we also encourage them to do research of their own. We are always here to answer any questions for our customers and educate them not only on the products, but how to shop for products and make sure they are quality. Wether they are shopping with us or somewhere else, they should have the knowledge to know the right questions to ask and what to look for in a product. We provide lab results for the products we carry not only on our website : www.Hemlockcompany.com , but also in store as well by utilizing QR codes listed on products.
We try to involve ourselves in the community as much as possible. We use the Whittier Chamber of Commerce to network and connect with other business and services that people offer. We take advantage of any events going on locally and definitely use social media to showcase our products. Word of mouth is huge for us which is why we focus on customer service in the shops.
What’s your outlook for 2020 and retail for CBD?
I think the industry for CBD retail is just starting to get its feet off the ground. I have high hopes for 2020 and expansion for not only my shops but for the industries growth as well. Now is the time to do things right and really set yourself up for success in the industry.
Check out Hemlock Company at www.Hemlockcompany.com.