Valley Pure located in Woodlake’s downtown opens for business as the only commercial cannabis store in the Central Valley
By Paul Myers
WOODLAKE – When people think about the cutting edge of industry they don’t think Woodlake. But nonetheless the small town of about 8,000 people is home to the Valley’s first commercial cannabis shop. Valley Pure LLC, located in Woodlake downtown on Valencia Blvd., is not even breaking the mold, they are creating it.
“It’s a crazy thing…it’s like being out in the ocean without an ore,” district manager Wes Hardin says.
Hardin and fellow manager Tony Caudle have been working 12 hour days from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. getting the shop up and running during their soft opening. In all they have been welcoming the public for 10 days, but plan to have an official opening sometime this month. According to Hardin and Caudle the reception has been nothing but welcoming.
“We’ve had a good response from the City and community…we could not ask for better partners in Woodlake,” Hardin added.
Partnership is a good word to describe the relationship between Valley Pure and the City. For the better part of a year the City has been vetting potential cannabis businesses before issuing licenses. Unlike other businesses Valley Pure had to submit to an added level of criteria that included a detailed business plan, security plan and background checks on each employee. As well they had to sit down with a panel that included city administrator Ramon Lara, community development director Jason Waters, police chief Mike Marquez, fire district chief Anthony Perez and a representative of the Tulare County Association of Governments. Their biggest concern was whether Valley Pure, or any other commercial cannabis business, would contribute to the community once they are established.
“We wanted to make sure they weren’t just going to come in and not listen to the community or contribute,” Waters said.
Manager Wes Hardin checks in customers at the front security desk inside the reception area for Valley Pure. Photo by Paul Myers.
Valley Pure, owned by United Property Interests Corp, has made some substantial donations to the community already. According to Waters they donated $10,000 to the Woodlake Police Department to purchase the department’s second K-9 officer. As of late they have also purchased a sponsorship for the Woodlake Rodeo. Waters added there are other service clubs they have donated to as well. Hardin says it is important to set examples like that because of the responsibility they have as the first ones to the table in the Valley.
“We have the entire industry on our backs…it’s integral to have that example of a healthy partnership because this is going to be a multibillion dollars business in the next five years,” Hardin said.
United Property Interests Corp, incorporated in September of last year, has helped Valley Pure set the bar for commercial cannabis with almost a brand new building. Because of the expensive requirements to comply with ADA standards they thought it better to gut the old second hand sales store and start anew.
What was a shell for a building in downtown for several months became a masonry storefront with discreetly shaded windows. Per Proposition 64 the dispensary has a waiting room where an employee verifies the age of the customer and they are logged into the Valley Pure data base before entering the store. Cases are stocked with display product for customers to peruse. HiDef TVs are fastened to the walls scrolling through prices for all the available products. The entire store continues through a modern theme from the walls to the floor.
With the modern décor comes modern security. Per their license with the City of Woodlake, Valley Pure is required to stream a live 24/7 video to the police department. While that might seem like big brother looking of their shoulder, Hardin says they enjoy the relationship they have with the police.
“Who doesn’t want to have their own police officer? And they are right down the street to respond if something happens,” Hardin said.
Wes Hardin is no stranger to working with local government. When United Property Interests Corp went looking for managers to head up their Woodlake store they found Hardin. As a former manager with medical marijuana dispensary, CannaCanHelp in Goshen, he lobbied for the Tulare County Board of Supervisors to allow commercial cannabis in the unincorporated areas of the county. Citing the benefit of additional tax revenue, Hardin said it would be a good idea for the County to consider it. The Board ultimately decided to move away from commercial cannabis in 2017.
Hardin has been with Valley Pure since December of last year, the same time United Property Interests Corp decided to bring on Tony Caudle. Caudle owned and operated his own cannabis delivery business for 15 years and has even more time than that in the industry.
“Wes has been a good partner and I wouldn’t want to be on this path with anyone else,” Caudle said.
Like any new business, but in particular a business like this, there are some wrinkles to iron out in the community. Before the City agreed to issue licenses, or even put a cannabis tax on the ballot last November, community members were sure to have their voices heard.
“At first I was on the fence, but the more I thought about it, that’s where my drug use started…and I was one of the lucky ones to get out of it…and I go to the store and see my friends who haven’t,” said Juan Lopez who spoke to the council last summer during their July 24 meeting. “What are we telling our kids…what kind of example will you be when we tell our kids that you voted for drugs?”
Another member in the community said that she feels fear over allowing legal marijuana in the city limits.
“I’m afraid of what may come,” said Mariana Rodriguez.
But since then Valley Pure has made explicit efforts to be out in the community.
“It is me and Tony’s goal to make sure we serve the people that consume the products but the people that don’t as well…we’re here for the community and that’s up to us and for the us to prove,” Hardin expressed.
“We have opened up some people’s minds and make sure they understand we are here for the community and crossing all the ‘T’s and dotting all the ‘I’s,” Caudle said.