Pot business brings changes — for the better — to Woodlake

It’s been a scant handful of weeks since Valley Pure–the first licensed recreational cannabis shop doing business in the Central Valley–opened on Valencia Boulevard in downtown Woodlake. Already, the boutique storefront and delivery service is altering the nature of that small foothill community. By all accounts, the new direction is positive for everyone.

So Far, So Good

Things seem to be going well in downtown Woodlake. Businesses–Valley Pure, as well as Munchies, the new coffee shop next door, the pair of taco restaurants, and the walk-up doughnut shop–stay open late. Even on a weeknight customers come and go in number.

But how much new revenue Valley Pure will generate remains to be seen, says Woodlake’s Community Development Director, Jason Waters, who was instrumental in setting a mood designed to attract cannabis businesses to that town of about 7,300 people.

Since Valley Pure opened so recently, it has yet to make a payment to City Hall. Waters has no idea how much to expect when the first check arrives after July 1.

“Honestly, I don’t have a clue,” he said. “Every quarter, they’ll report to us what their gross receipts were, how much they made, and we get 5%. A little bit after July 1st I’ll be able to give you an exact number.”

Like Hotcakes

Over at Valley Pure, the parade of customers is steady and business is better than brisk.

“The market is great,” said Wes Hardin, manager of Valley Pure. “Obviously, we live in Woodlake, where it might be a small city that lies in the middle of a bigger metropolitan area where there’s a lot of cities and towns around that we can pull from.”

“I think it’s going to draw quite a few more people to main street,” said Woodlake resident Dana Garcia.

Garcia was waiting in the coffee shop next door, minding her grandson as her son-in-law visited Valley Pure. She’s very comfortable having the Valley’s first recreational cannabis store in her town, she said. She likes the look from outside, but hasn’t be in yet.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with it,” Garcia said. “They’re very controlled on who goes in.”

Valley Pure co-manager Tony Caudle agrees with Garcia’s assessment.

“It’s a regular business,” he said. “It’s probably one of the safest place to be in the city.”

The preparation City Hall did to ready the city for an industry that still carries a slight stigma–much like alcohol sales did in the wake of the repeal of Prohibition–helped ease her mind, Garcia said.

“They city gave us the choice,” she said. “They sent out fliers and asked a questionnaire for two months.”

Businesses Doing Business

Valley Pure isn’t just attracting potential customers for neighboring businesses along Valencia Boulevard. It’s also bringing its business partners along.

“I came to see these guys (Hardin and Caudle),” said Imran Akhund, owner of Love Trees Plant Nutrients, a Visalia-based plant food manufacturer. “We just touched base with them and we’re talking about helping them increase their yields, while basically saving them some money.”

Akhund and his companion also picked up coffee at Munchies on their way out of town.

If Waters gets his way, Woodlake residents can expect more cannabis businesses will find their way to town as word spreads. Central to the plan to attract more like Valley Pure is a tax rate that sits squarely in the middle of what other towns are charging.

“We did a rate study. We looked at what the different rates were across the state, presented it to (the City) Council, let them know, ‘Hey, this is what other cities are doing,’ kind of asked them to give us some input on what they thought would be competitive,” Waters said. “They split the difference and went in the middle. We wanted to make sure it was something that worked for both parties. If it’s too high and they don’t get business, that’s not going to be good for the city.”

Welcome to Woodlake

The attitude of accommodation at Woodlake City Hall is not to be found anywhere else in Tulare County, and it was key to getting Valley Pure to settle there.

“We have roots in Woodlake,” said Hardin. “But, also, they were first out of the gate. They were very forward thinking and when it came time to pass the muster, as it were, Woodlake was right on the ball and they’ve been great partners the whole time.”

In the long run, that could mean very big things for little Woodlake and its new business partners.

“Our agenda is elevated to the point we are really excited about expansion in the future in the state of California,” Hardin said. “We envision ourselves as a statewide, and eventually once the feds come around, a nationwide company.”

Blazing an Ethical Trail

Even though Valley Pure attracts attention as a novelty and due to its newness, it also offers quality products at reasonable prices, Hardin said, and that will give it staying power in the long-term.

“We’re doing good,” Hardin said. “We like to think we’re providing a good service for the community.”

They’re also going out of their way to be good to the town that’s being very good to them. So far, they’ve become cosponsors of the Woodlake Rodeo and they donated a K-9 officer to the Woodlake Police Department. It’s not a publicity move, Hardin insists, but rather just how everyone should behave.

“I feel we feel we need to do that as humans,” he said.

Still, he realizes cannabis merchants and manufacturers are not universally welcome, even in Woodlake.

“We realize this is a fringe industry, and to some people from an ideology perspective they might be a little bit scary, so it’s our job, my and Tony’s main goal when we go into new cities and new markets is to make sure we bring our best and brightest,” Hardin said. “That means we bring our ethics and our values and our responsibilities as a company.”

“We hope to be the model for people coming up,” Caudle added.

So Far, So Good

No major problems have arisen for Valley Pure as it gets its start, and the people of Woodlake seem satisfied.

“We haven’t had any complaints,” said Waters at City Hall. “I’ll take that.”

He’ll also take the added traffic Valley Pure is bringing to town. He welcomes it in fact. So, too, will owners of businesses surrounding the cannabis shop, as they see increases in sales.

“Anytime you can get traffic in a downtown, it usually lifts all tides,” Waters said. “So, we hope other businesses benefit from this as well, (as) people come from other places and maybe get a cup of coffee or tacos across the street.”

If all goes according to plan, Woodlake can expect continuing growth in a thriving downtown, mainly thanks to its cannabis-friendly attitude. That, in turn, should mean a stronger and wealthier Woodlake for everyone.

“Downtown, especially in a small community, that’s the backbone,” Waters said. “So, if we can have an active downtown, that’s a win for us.”

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