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Home Grown Apothecary –With a Retail Manager, Media Manager and Herbalist with the Experience Needed to Building a Successful Herbal Medicine and Medical Cannabis Dispensary

Richard Ferry

Retail Manager

Home Grown Apothecary

Interview conducted by:

Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive

CEOCFO Magazine

CEOCFO: Mr. Ferry, before we discuss Home Grown Apothecary, would you give us a little background on yourself and what lead you to the world of cannabis?

Mr. Ferry: I spent my entire life wanting to be a professional musician. I achieved that goal and was mostly a studio player for hundreds of different acts over the years. I am a classically-trained bass player. Before I was a full-time musician, I was a guitar buyer and retail manager. I have a degree in marketing and a business degree from Temple University. There has been some evolution in my education over the years, but I was essentially a guitar buyer for a chain and a sales trainer. I left that to become a full-time musician. I developed a certain skill-set for retail management, marketing, everything a retail place needs to run on a day-to-day basis whether that be cannabis or shoes. They are all approached a little differently. I was able to approach multiple businesses in my time there to help them work on those specific niches. Then I quit that because it was boring and I wanted to be a full-time musician. I did that for about ten years and music wasn’t any fun for me anymore, it started to become a job.

I started to figure out where I wanted to go and I had this other skillset. The owners of Home Grown Apothecary have a mutual family friend. During my time as a musician they bought a bike shop and I am big into bicycles, so I helped them out as a friend of the bike shop. My present wife wanted to move back to Portland so I said “great, let’s go to Portland.” We came out here with no plan. In that time period Randa Shahin, one of the owners of the business had spoken to our mutual family friends and she said she was looking for somebody with this particular skillset that she can trust really well. They said “Well, we happen to have a guy who is planning on moving there in the time period you are looking for.” They put us together and it turned out that I had the skillset that they needed to help run a business on the day-to-day. They both come from the cannabis world but nothing on retail management.

CEOCFO: Mr. Ferry, tell us about Home Grown Apothecary and its founder and owner, Ms. Randa Shahin. What was behind its founding, where did its name come from, how long has it been in business and how did it develop to where it is today?

Mr. Ferry: It is a family-owned business. Originally Randa’s present husband Josh had a medical grow and Randa really believed in herbal medicine and wanted to start an apothecary and medical dispensary with a plan to eventually go recreational. They started this business together and the business opened about a year before I came into the business here. The year was 2015. I came into the business literally two weeks before recreational sales were available in Oregon. There were lines out the front door.

I did not come from the cannabis world; I came from the retail world with some cannabis knowledge. We tell our customers and coach our bud tenders that if anyone ever says they know everything about cannabis, they do not. We are still learning more and more about it every single day. There are a lot of things that we are still figuring out the details on. As this information becomes more prevalent, we can learn more but once they say they know everything about cannabis I just stop listening to that guy.

CEOCFO: What are some of your responsibilities as Retail Manager and what are some of the changes and accomplishments that have happened since you are taken over in this role?

Mr. Ferry: Pretty much any of the retail situations, the entire workflow and retail aspect of the business right now is pretty much my creation or a delegation of a representative that we hired to see a certain goal. I watch the market and market trends and proceed in developing a retail environment under the owners’ advice. What they are looking for and what they tell me is that they want this place to be more of an organic health and wellness center more than a dispensary. So I said, “great that is an awesome thing.” I really love that intension and do not want to go into business just for sales. I want to go back into helping people and that is big for me.

One of the things I brought here early on was the difference between destination and convenience retail marketing. That was a big thing and I took a look at what was going on in the cannabis market and realized that a lot of the places were leaning towards being the convenient place to your house. It was super saturated so I said “let’s not do that, let’s not be Fred Meyers, let’s be Natural Grocers.” If you just want the cheapest highest testing graham and you do not care where it comes from, there are a thousand dispensaries that you can shop at and I do not feel like competing with that. If you want honest transparency, wellness, a high level of customer service, and you want to know where your weed is coming from to the guy’s name who is trimming it, then we want to be able to facilitate that for you.

We have always had a specific curated and organic menu and we have always set ourselves up with the ability to talk to people to give them a little bit more time and explanation for navigating the cannabis markets. I joke sometimes but I have been literally asked how to spell THC more than once. We get people with that level of education and then we get the experts and the cannabis nerds. We are an organic health and wellness facility focused on herbal health and wellness both cannabis and non-cannabis and we are a facility to help people as we are able to help them under the compliance laws for anyone who comes in and is interested in being helped out in an organic health and wellness manner.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your products? When did you start to incorporate Apothecary products in your menu and is that a growing area for you?

Mr. Ferry: We have a full-time herbalist here who has been with the company almost as long as I have. Her name is Tania Hays. She runs her own company, Mossy Tonics. We, with her curation and assistance have over 130 different single herbs. We also have non-cannabis tinctures, health and beauty products, all local and Certified Organic, wild harvested, mostly from local manufacturers. Some of the stuff we carry does not grow in this hemisphere, so not everything is local but we make sure it is ethically sourced or organically certified. That is just the non-cannabis section of the store. As far as our cannabis section of the store, we actually vet and talk to each farmer that we deal with. We talk to every brand and every manufacturer. We ask them about their ingredient sourcing for edibles, we look specifically into that and we have no artificial colors, flavors or high-fructose corn syrup. That is just the edibles. All the flower on our shelves, we vet each farm to make sure they are growing in a soil medium and that they are not using any environmentally harmful or chemical pest-control methods. We talk to them about their nutrients so all their nutrients are going to be USDA Certified Organic or self-sourced in an organic manner. We have one farm we work with whose brother is fisherman, he gets fish heads and that is organic. If you have flower on our shelf your farm has to have long-term sustainability goals built into your business plan. That is one of the unique things about us.

We also stayed heavy in the medical program to help medical customers. As soon as recreational weed hit in 2015, a lot of the dispensaries were open medical with the intent of going recreational sales and making that their bread and butter and just left the medical community in the dust. It is unfortunate. I have even been denied the use of my medical card for products in dispensaries which is technically a compliance violation. We currently to my knowledge, have one of the largest medical programs of any recreational dispensary in the state. We have a donation program and we work with Farmers Friend Extracts, and Sun God Medicinals, East Fork Cultivars and Peak Extracts. They actually donate medicine each month to us to give away to patients who need that medicine. We do that as a free service and these other companies are helping us facilitate that free service to this medical community. The only thing we ask our patients that if this is not medicine that they can use, please do not take us up on that offer, please leave that spot for someone who can use that medicine. It is huge and we service over 100 patients between us each month plus we have special order systems and other things worked out with a couple other companies to help with cancer, patient needs, MS needs, so we have facilitated all of that. I have not heard of any dispensary where you can special order a case of your medicine.

There are compliance laws that we have to deal with around that and delivery where we have to have a conversation with patients depending on the volume they need. We are not oncologists and I am not a doctor but the average cancer patient for different types of cancer relief, usually get 30 to 60 grams of RSO (Rick Simpson Oil). At one point seven years ago RSO went from $5 or $6 a gram, and jumped up to $60 overnight. It has leveled out and most of them are around $30 nowadays give or take. We have a couple programs with Sun Grown and Sun God, specifically if we have a cancer patient that needs that volume, they will actually facilitate us getting special pricing so that person can get special pricing for their treatment. We work with a couple oncologists in the area that refer patients to us but the whole goal in business and retail is people, prices and products and every business puts them in different priorities. For me it is people first. If you take care of people success will come if you can stand by your products.

CEOCFO: How do you source your products? Would you tell us about your product suppliers?

Mr. Ferry: There are a couple good companies out there that are OLCC (Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission) compliant. We get it from residence farms, East Fork, Peak Extracts, Farmers Friend Extracts, Sun God Medicinals and Luminous Botanicals. There are a few others.

CEOCFO: What about your CBD selection?

Mr. Ferry: We have a huge CBD selection, probably 60 different CBD products in the store at any given time. We have the largest CBD dispensary of any dispensary in Portland. We are usually listed in Top Five CBD Stores. Last year we got three or four different Top Threes. We were in the Top Three for Best CBD Store and Top Five For Best Dispensary. We won Best Organic Cannabis Selection 2022, in the Best of Portland Readers Poll. Two of our bud tenders made Top Five for Best Bud Tender, last year.

CEOCFO: Is branding important for you? Does your dispensary have a certain look and feel that a customer can sense when they visit that is unique to Home Grown Apothecary?

Mr. Ferry: Anyone that has a space people need to visit need to keep in mind that they want their space to be comfortable for the customers. We want to provide a comfortable space. We will talk to other brands but if your brand is “Hey we got the cheapest, highest stuff and we don’t care where it comes from,” versus “We have a really nice joint and we grow organically,” we will go with the organic people of course.

We have a certain look, which is a very apothecary look. We are in an old Portland home and you walk in and immediately there is the NON-cannabis section and all these herbs and people once a week come in and ask if we sell weed here. We tell them we absolutely do but, they are just in the non-cannabis section. I have been to some dispensaries where there is a line and they ask for ID and tell you, “Here is the ATM, get in line,” or “there is your bud tender, here is the menu.” It is an assembly line. We want to give people the opportunity to be comfortable and get what they need and express their feelings and needs.  

CEOCFO: You have a terrific website. I love your logo and the look. What did you strive for when developing your website? Was it to develop a unique look and feel? Was ease of use important?

Mr. Ferry: My marketing degree predates Facebook. We have an amazing media manager, Andi Keller. She runs her own media company and Space Face Media. She has been with us for 6.5 years now. She started as a bud tender, and immediately with her background in photography and web design, we very much collaborated on what we wanted to do. As far as the appearance and the layout I have to say that it was all her.

The feeling on how we wanted to express things, well that has been collaborative. As far as the copy, what the website says and that kind of thing, that is very collaborative as well. For making it as gorgeous as it is, all that credit goes to Andi. Actually, all the online credit goes to Andi. She has taken the reigns on that for the last 3.5 years and the quality of work is fantastic.

CEOCFO: You have an education part of your website. Why is that important and what do you focus on? Is information on regulations important?

Mr. Ferry: As I said earlier if anyone says they know all there is to know about cannabis they are wrong because we are all still learning. I think it is important in life to have a student mindset. We want to facilitate people seeking us out to have that. If you want to know what some basic CBD stuff is, we want to be able to give you some reliable sources. If you need a good guacamole recipe, we have that available on there too. If you want to know how to infuse your own foods easily, we have some tips on that.

As far as regulatory we always announce the regulatory rules for the recreational consumer. Our most recent disclaimer was we can no longer do curbside service if there are minors in the car. That is a recent rule that came out in the last six months. We had to put that on our website. As far as compliance changes and what is going on we bring that to the consumer level. We try to stay out of politics. Besides the obvious and really good stuff like the fundraising we have done for the LGBTQ community and the women’s community we have done in the past, as far as regulatory changes that do not affect us directly, we really take time to get all the research in that we can before we make any announcements.

We try to avoid the politics unless it gets to the point where we have to jump in. If they started to make a rule that it was ok to grow cannabis but only the Philip Morris Company can, we would step up on that one. We are talking about changing the recreational carry limit to four clones to six clones, cool.

CEOCFO: How is business these days? What is the mix in sales between your dispensary and online? Would you like to see that change?

Mr. Ferry: I think in general in customer service I think the majority of online sales has really hurt the retail and service industry across the board regardless of whether you are talking about cannabis or shoes or a tractor. Mass marketing and big box and online sales have really hurt the interpersonal needs for especially beginners. I would tell people never buy a guitar online when I was a guitar expert for a living, because you do not know how it plays or if you will like it. You just know you like the color and it sounds good on paper.

We are buying our cars online and our mattresses online, but there is a balance to be had. If you Google what a SPECIFIC cannabinoid is good for, it says the same twenty things in a different order every time. When you start reading the research coming out of Israel and you start attending these lectures and start looking at what the sciences are, you start to understand the differences in all of these cannabinoids. Having someone to talk to, to help guide you through that extension of Google is something that we do not even talk about today as an American culture anymore.

I think we will always need a brick and mortar to help them with their needs. People will always need a conversation with a bud tender, but if you know what you want on your pizza well then just order your pizza, we do not need a conversation about peppers.

CEOCFO: Where will future growth come from? Is this a brand that could foster growth beyond your current location? Is that something you have already looked at?

Mr. Ferry: This is a brand that we could definitely propagate into multiple locations and multiple states, but our main priority is the health and wellness of our patients and customers here and the success and happiness of our employees. As a business plan we always put those two things first and we are always putting money back into our patients and employees before we even talk about expansion. We want to pay everyone a really good living wage here. We are in Portland and it is expensive here.

We are a small staff of six people total so we really want our employees that are helping the customers and helping us make more money, be paid for that. If we start running into a surplus and becoming so successful that we can start talking about expanding to a second location then we definitely, will but until that day we will focus on this place to be the best it can possibly be.

CEOCFO: I had one CEO of a cannabis company tell me about the difficulty he had finding a good merchant services provider. Did you find the same thing and what were some of the other challenges you faced as you developed Home Grown Apothecary?

Mr. Ferry: We still are struggling with that. The entire cannabis industry in America is struggling with that because of the federal illegalization of us. We finally found a compliant way to take debit cards at the end of last year in 2022. We were able to start taking debit cards at the register. We had a great merchant service provider and everything was running smoothly, then in mid-December there was a big federal rigamarole about specifically cashless ATMs at the dispensaries. So all the cashless ATM processors and not the merchant service that we are working with or the banks but the middle-man pulled their services from dispensaries across the board.

We either have not been able to find a really clear and streamlined and compliant way to do credit card merchant services at the register or the ones that we have found are not ready to launch yet due to the new market rules or they are just starting to launch now. We have been out since December. A lot of the places that are doing it are using block-chains like a gift card thing and then they go into banks. There are compliance risks on the federal level and Oregon level. We actually were seized early on in the rec days for a minute.

CEOCFO: In closing, what sets Home Grown Apothecary apart from the competition and why are you important to your customers?

Mr. Ferry: Besides the fact that we curate our menu for everything to be as organic as humanly possible in the cannabis community and besides the fact that we do charities in the big medical program, the #1 thing that is going to set Home Grown Apothecary apart is that we are the #1 set up to listen to you as a customer and as a patient. If you have a need and need to be heard we are here to hear you and help you to the best of our abilities. I do not think a lot of other dispensaries build that intent into their retail flow.

Home Grown Apothecary | Richard Ferry | Herbal Medicine Dispensary Oregon | Medical Cannabis Dispensary Oregon | Home Grown Apothecary –With a Retail Manager, Media Manager and Herbalist with the Experience Needed to Building a Successful Herbal Medicine and Medical Cannabis Dispensary | CEO Interviews 2023 | Cannabis Companies

“This is a brand that we could definitely propagate into multiple locations and multiple states, but our main priority is the health and wellness of our patients and customers here and the success and happiness of our employees.”
Richard Ferry!