We talk shop with Ian Isenberg of Uncle Ikes.
Shop Talk is a new series showcasing shop owners from across the country. Learn more about the owners, what makes dispensaries tick, the kind of products they’re looking for, insider advice and more. Ian Eisenberg owns Uncle Ike’s of Seattle, Washington.
How did you first get into the cannabis space?
I had some properties that I couldn’t lease, because the neighborhoods were pretty dangerous. They met the zoning requirements, so I decided to give pot a shot after legalization.
When did you open the first location of Uncle Ike’s?
October 2013. No wait. 2014.
And how long after opening the first location were you able to open the second location?
About a year and a half.
Around the same time.
What do you attribute to your success and ability to open multiple locations?
Better customer service and better prices.
Which products are your bestsellers?
Flower. Flower is always the best seller.
Really? Flower? It’s always interesting to hear how sellers vary from location and state. Any particular strain or varietal?
Not really. Strains seem to go with trends. But it also depends on the time of year as well. Some strains are better outdoors. Some are better indoors. It’s like produce. It’s seasonal. You know?
What is the most rewarding part of owning a dispensary?
It’s just great dealing with the customers. Making people happy. And everybody is happy when they’re buying weed.
True. And the most difficult part?
Unhappy customers. I don’t like when people are unhappy.
What sets your shop apart?
We have more variety than any other stores in the state. We carry a pretty big selection of products. I think we have over a thousand SKUs right now?
Wow. Is there much variation between the locations?
They all carry basically the same. Different stores sell different percentages of categories though.
What piece of advice would you give to new brands trying to get on shelves?
Try to have something that sets you apart. It really comes down to quality, price and branding. And just saying your product is “better” or “made with love” doesn’t really matter to customers.
And of those three things—quality, price and branding—which matters most? Have you noticed, for instance, if people are reaching for the higher price point if the quality or branding is strong?
I think it’s like liquor or wine. There’s a 5% fine wine category but more people want a $5 to $15 bottle. People tend to focus on the top end. I wouldn’t. I’d focus on the midrange.
What advice would you give to someone interested in opening their own shop?
Have realistic expectations. Everybody thinks they can get rich quick. I don’t know anybody getting rich as a producer, processor or retailer. It’s like a regular business.
What new products are you most excited about carrying?
I’m not. Until something new comes out, I’m not going to know about it. I won’t know about it. It’s really about the price point. It’s a really price elastic business, more than people realize. When price decreases demand goes up.
Are you rolling out any new shop features or locations in the near future?
We have online ordering now where you can pre-order your purchases for pick-up and we offer a 10% discount if you order online.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Uncle Ike’s has three locations in Seattle, Washington. They’re open from 8:00 am to 11:45 pm daily and can be reached at https://ikes.com or (800) 438-37847.