In South Anchorage, right off of King Street and nearly on the corner of Dimond Boulevard, sits relative newcomer marijuana retailer King Street Cannabis. In the shell of a former Copper River Seafoods fish market, co-owner Nicholas Gelinas says that the shop got off to an uncertain start. King Street opened November 29, 2019. Black Friday. Four months later, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz would issue Emergency Order 1, grinding public indoor gatherings to a halt.
“The biggest challenge was the uncertainty,” says Gelinas. “We don’t have millions in overhead, we go week by week.” But instead of shrinking, sales have doubled since COVID. Gelinas points to a monthly sales comparison chart. “I could show you — here’s week 12, we’re like, ‘oh my God, what are we gonna do? But since it hit…”
Instead of finishing the sentence, he chuckles at the obvious spike from March to today. “Growth has been amazing; we’re well received throughout the community.”
There is such a demand for retail marijuana, in fact, that Gelinas says Alaska’s higher-volume, higher-demand shops are suffering a slight product shortage.
“I’m able to get enough to keep my store going, but some of these busier shops that do five to ten pound orders, they can’t get it,” Gelinas said.
And that may be because of local toking, which has reportedly outpaced even last year’s local and tourism sales combined.
“From my understanding, from everyone I talk to in the industry, we’re busier this summer than last summer with tourism,” says Gelinas. “With the way it’s going, I think we’ll be a billion dollar industry in the next five years.”
Gelinas walks me through the large hangar adjacent to the office. This will be the site of the new 1,000 square foot grow operation, dubbed Quintessence Farms.
“Most of our products are soil grown,“ Gelinas says. “I do try to do as much from living soil, as organic as I can.”
While King Street currently relies on boutique cultivators, there will soon be plenty grown on-site to supplement the stock.
Gelinas says that while property hunting may sometimes lead a prospective buyer to taking what he or she can find, King Street happened to land on a goldmine for passing traffic.
“We got really lucky; this is the busiest intersection in the state,” he says. “We get about 65,000 cars every day.”
The shop has a decidedly boutique vibe to it. Rustic wood lines the walls, framing glass cases featuring oil, flower, concentrates, and edible products. Local glass and metal art is featured, alongside some of the most varied merch to be found. Want a pair of King Street Cannabis Company-branded Carhartt overalls? They’ve got ‘em.
Gelinas says the biggest legislative issue facing the marijuana industry is the continued hope for the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would allow revenues generated from cannabis to be deposited into federally-insured banks. The SAFE Banking Act was included in the HEROES COVID Relief Act in May of this year, which has passed the House but now sits in limbo until Congress returns from recess after Labor Day.
And also, he says, it would be nice for on-site consumption to finally get passed, once people can congregate again. In the meantime, regular and varied specials keep a steady stream of customers pouring in, sometimes lining up out to the parking lot for doorbuster specials.
“We do everything from trim, deli-style, $2-3 joints out the door, up to $25 a gram for the high-testing stuff,” Gelinas said.
Best of all, when you shop at King Street Cannabis Co.— especially when you buy a Frog Mountain product — you’re helping out Moose Mamas, a non-profit dedicated to rehabilitating orphaned moose for re-release into the wild.