On Main Street, just a few blocks north of Old Bellevue’s string of cute boutiques and quaint coffee shops, is the city’s first recreational cannabis store, Green-Theory. Monday through Sunday, anyone over the age of 21 can walk in and purchase up to 1 ounce of dried marijuana, among other cannabis products. In the five months Green-Theory has been open, it’s welcomed all kinds of customers.
We had the cutest little grandmother in here the other day with her walker and a little dog,” said project manager and buyer Tera Martin.
Selling weed to a sweet grandma is not uncommon for the Green-Theory team. Martin says that the shop’s average customer is between the ages of 40 and 70. When the owners designed the store, they set out to create a stylish, high-end boutique that the community could embrace and feel at home in.
“Our main goal was to create a professional atmosphere that wouldn’t be shunned in Bellevue and something that was comfortable for everyone,” said Martin. So far, they’ve had customers from “all walks of life.”
“This is what the soccer moms smoke,” said assistant manager Rachel Emadi, holding a vaporizer pen under a glowing light fixture shaped like a giant joint. The device in her hand looks like a thin, discrete Bic pen with a mouthpiece. It’s used to inhale CO2 oil, a concentrated form of THC. There’s no lighting involved, no trails of smoke or lingering smell. It even comes with a USB charger.
At Green-Theory, there’s a product for every enthusiast. The store itself is broken up into categories that include flowers, concentrates and edibles. Whether the customer wants to smoke it, eat it, inhale it through a vaporizer or toss it on a dinner salad (yes, they carry marijuana-infused salad dressing), there’s probably a product that fits the bill. They even have blueberry “smooth and uplifting” bud, as well as marijuana-infused caramel espresso brownies.
A gram can cost anywhere from $15-$35 depending on the selection. Their biggest sales day at the store was on Black Friday last November, when they offered special deals.
Martin said they’re extremely careful about sourcing their products. They tour every facility they source from and have one-on-one interviews with each supplier. Marketing manager Lisa Olson said they have to be thorough because they’re prohibited from taking returns on marijuana sales. They want to make sure they are supplying the best possible products.
While anyone over the age 21 can make a purchase at Green-Theory, no one can smoke in there. Customers can’t even open their purchases on the premises, under Washington state law. While the store has a faint earthy smell to it, it’s not terribly obvious it’s even a pot shop until you look inside the glass displays.
Sandwiched between a furniture store and a doggy-day care boutique, Green-Theory blends in with the block. The outdoor sign, which had to be approved by the city, is fairly simple and unobtrusive. Its lettering is similar to Starbucks’. Inside, the design elements are clean and modern. There are no Bob Marley posters or tacky pot-leaf murals. The counters are made of carbonized bamboo. The floors are treated concrete to give the store an urban, industrial feel. Green accent walls match the branding and give the room a fresh glow.
“There are so many misconceptions of what this industry could be, and when someone comes in here, it’s friendly. It’s clean. It’s pretty. And they’re a lot more acceptable of the idea,” said Martin.
Another big plus for the store is its location. Strict zoning regulations can push pot shops to the outskirts of cities. A recreational cannabis shop can’t be located within 1,000 feet of public parks, schools, child care-centers or transit centers. And in Bellevue, pot shops have to be at least 1,000 feet apart. Green-Theory was quick to pounce on the Main Street location. A second pot shop, Greenside Recreational, attempted to open across the street from Green-Theory, but the city wouldn’t allow it. The prospective owners of Greenside Recreational sued the city in fall 2014.
“We have one of the best locations in the state of Washington because we’re in such a forthcoming area,” said Martin. “Bellevue is just getting huge right now, and it’s also turning into a tourist town. This is something people will look forward to when they come visit from out-of-town. We get a lot of tourists here — a lot of out of state IDs.”
Martin says the community has reacted well to the new store and that they haven’t received pushback. Olson, who also co-owns Suite Lounge in Bellevue, said she hasn’t had anyone react negatively to her working at Green-Theory, either.
“When we were opening, The City of Bellevue and the Bellevue Police were awesome. We worked with them on everything. We still stay in weekly communication with the Bellevue Police … They’ve all had tours of the store.”
They also get a lot of business professionals who come in before or after work, or on their lunch break. Sometimes they run into their colleagues while they’re shopping. “What’s really funny about it, and enjoyable to watch, is when worlds collide. When you see co-workers notice each other, or bosses. I’ve had previous bosses come in here, and I’ve sold them some really good weed,” said Emadi.
“The men are the most funny about it,” added Martin. “I guess you would say they’re not as conservative as women can be. So you’ll see a group of co-workers come in, and their boss will be up at the register, and they’re like, ‘We knew it! We knew it!’”