Call it the Covid-19 business bump.
In the days just after the County of Monterey and then Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted shelter-in-place orders that saw all but businesses and government offices deemed essential shut down, local cannabis retailers report they saw a surge of activity as customers rushed to stock up.
“We had a couple of weeks that I think people were panic buying. We were up 25 percent,” says Cary Stiebel, owner of The Reef, a cannabis shop on Fremont Boulevard in Seaside. “But things have settled down to somewhat normal.”
Even normal doesn’t look normal for The Reef, though. The shop closes for five minutes every hour for an intense wipedown of all surfaces, and for running fans to circulate fresh air. Employees wear gloves and masks, plexiglass barriers are placed in front of cash registers and everyone who can work from home is doing so.
At East of Eden in Salinas, co-partner Gavin Kogan says business is still elevated from pre-pandemic levels – about 5 – to 10-percent higher – but finds people are buying what he calls “value” products.
“We’ve seen an uptick in consumables like edibles and beverages, and it’s more indicative of people staying home instead of socializing,” Kogan says.
And rather than laying anyone off, East of Eden has added staff to accommodate new curbside service, allowing customers to purchase online and pick up their products through their car window – such transactions are monitored by security staff.
Like The Reef, East of Eden has added crowd control measures and extra cleaning. If there’s been an upside to the pandemic, it’s that it’s invigorated the business and the staff with a sense of purpose.
“For the California cannabis worker, that we’ve been deemed essential and that we’ve gotten consistent response from customers during this time has really imbued us with a sense that what we do is important,” Kogan says. “The community relies on us and it’s an honor to be able to serve them.”