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First Marijuana Store is Off to a Fast Start in Lake Elsinore

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Upon entering Lake Elsinore’s first legal, licensed marijuana dispensary, it’s hard to miss the floor-to-ceiling books that line the right wall of a small front foyer.

Then, as if going through a secret passageway, a push on the wall propels one through what’s actually a door into the clean, speakeasy-style shop with bright lights, brick facades and maroon wallpaper, and neatly stocked cabinets and shelves.

“As soon as you step into our facility, the first thing that catches your eye would be our nice decor,” said Jose Flores, dispensary manager for SoCal Co-Op The Syndicate.

That is by design, said Kim Joseph Cousins, one of five business owners who also happens to be president and CEO of the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce and a Riverside County Board of Education trustee.

Cousins said he’s determined “to demystify the whole industry.”

“We wanted to bring a first-class operation to Lake Elsinore,” he said.

The 1,600-square-foot retail shop runs out of a 6,100-square-foot building on Central Avenue that also is being prepped for marijuana cultivation. The dispensary opened Oct. 20.

Nicole Dailey, assistant to the Lake Elsinore city manager, said SoCal Co-Op The Syndicate was the second marijuana business to open in the city. Modern Leaf was the first. The Syndicate was the first dispensary to welcome customers, she said.

Several other marijuana businesses are getting close to opening, Dailey said in an email.

In late 2017, the Lake Elsinore City Council decided to allow up to 10 marijuana businesses in the city of about 65,000, restricting them to industrial zones. The council voted not to allow standalone dispensaries and to require that stores open only in conjunction with other marijuana operations, such as cultivation or manufacturing.

It didn’t take long for word to get out about the new shop.

Soon after The Syndicate opened, about 200 people were walking through that bookshelf-lined door daily, Flores said. And, for the 30-day period through Thursday, Dec. 19, the number of daily customers averaged 401, he said.

Sales totaled $636,641 during the same month, for an average of $21,221 per day, Flores said.

Cousins said he has been “delightfully surprised” by the pace of business growth.

“I guess I’m a little surprised at how quickly it’s ramped up,” he said.

Flores said The Syndicate has benefited by being not only the first in Lake Elsinore, but the first among area cities. That’s partly because some neighbors have barred marijuana shops, while businesses in other cities aren’t as far along in the development stage.

Business also is going well, he said, because people like buying pot from a vendor whose product is tested by state regulators.

“People feel more comfortable coming in here and shopping with us,” he said.

Flores said the store has 11 employees, including three managers and eight budtenders, or sales clerks.

“We are looking to expand our staff very shortly,” he said.

Shoppers choose from among 75 products ranging from “flowers” or marijuana buds to rolled marijuana smokes to medicinal oils and tinctures to marijuana vapes.

“We have over 50 strains, which is pretty impressive,” Flores said. “Not too many people have that many options.”

“Then we have a huge section on edibles. We have chocolates to baked goodies, and drinks,” he said.

Purchases are cash only. But an ATM machine is set up for customers who don’t bring cash.

On Thursday, several customers seemed impressed.

“I think their set up’s very nice,” Lake Elsinore resident Debbie Niles said.

Jesse Taze, who lives in Murrieta, said he liked having the ability to sniff products, not just look at them.

“In a lot of other places you don’t get the hands-on experience as far as scent,” he said.

Former Marine Sgt. Jason Greenlee, of Murrieta, who said he suffers from PTSD, bought a rolled Jeeter to help him sleep at night. Greenlee said other veteran friends who suffer from PTSD recommended marijuana.

Cousins said the clientele is diverse in ethnicity and age, ranging from college students to senior citizens.

“It really does run the entire gamut,” he said.

Many customers Cousins talks to have a question before they leave.

Aware that dispensaries have had a tendency to pop up and disappear at times across Southern California, they ask: “When are you going to close?”

Cousins then emphasizes that the shop is fully legal — and going nowhere soon.

“We’re here to stay,” he said tells them.

via: The Press Enterprise

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