Profile: Bryant Thorp, Owner of Arctic Herbery
An interview with the owner of Anchorage, Alaska's Arctic Herbery. Photos by Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz.
Where did you get the inspiration to start in the Cannabis industry?
It was mid-summer 2 1/2 years ago and I was down in Seattle watching my son playing baseball. That day at the hotel, I was watching the news on TV of the first guy who was legal when it opened. I knew it was on our ballot and being voted on soon, so at that point I told myself, if we pass, I'll be that guy on TV. I’ve been on that path ever since, and immediately when we passed it, I started to prep myself to be the first.
Can you describe what it was like to get going?
I started to find a place, bought a location, and dumped all in on it. I have had some setbacks and it's all financed directly out of pocket by myself. I've had real estate investments and owned apartment buildings and this last year I sold my last one off to get me over the hump of running out of money again. I hit setbacks and delays but I kept on pushing through, and eventually it ended up exactly how I envisioned, with a line out the door and a fun-time carnival atmosphere when we opened.
Were you nervous before you got the store finally opened?
Oh God, yes. I was scared at times, very nervous, and just as I was about to open, the state was calling and asking questions to the last minute. Knowing that everyone was watching so closely was a little nerve-wracking, because I didn't want any wrong steps. It was a battle for the whole process, from zoning to permits to the city assembly slowing me down. But that's what I was looking for. I was bored with life and real estate and wanted something to stimulate me, and fighting this battle has been incredibly stimulating and fun — a life-changing event for me over these years. I got to step out of the normal realm to do something different, and this became what my life goal is. It's been an amazing experience and it's been fun!
How amazing was the first day?
I don't know that I can describe it; I’m choking up again just thinking about it. It's a hard thing to put into words. I was thrilled; it was a joyous feeling of 2 1/2 years coming to fruition right in front of me. There were tons of news stations that day; even the AP was there.
It was thrilling in every way. I have been thanked and called a hero by hundreds of people. People come through the door and they want to shake my hand and thank me. It's touching, what I have seen from the public.
What is your favorite part about serving new customers?
The best part of what I've seen is the whole different variety of people coming through the door, from every walk of life. Our first customer was an 81-year-old Italian woman who wanted to make the pot into a salve. I had to limit sales, and she came back every day for four days to get as much as she needed to make it. It's been the coolest seeing the different people and seeing how grateful they are for the chance to have access and selection.
How has the supply and demand issue impacted running the business?
In the beginning, I was limited. I couldn’t keep product on the shelf. I had a small crop of my own last month, and it was gone in 2.5 days. When times are hopping and I've got a product and a door open, I have 200-400 people coming through the door each day, even when I don't have anything on the shelf. And they are somewhat satisfied to know that I am here and real, but a little upset at times that they can't buy anything. What I have now is a weekly supply plus our personal supply and edibles coming regularly now too, so I should always have products on the shelves. I will still be limiting supply but we will have a regular supply of product and my doors will be open every single day.
How do you feel about the state of the industry and the people making it happen right now?
The people here now have dedicated their lives to this, and they are some of the most dedicated people you're gonna find in the industry to their own jobs and lives. And the products that I am seeing from our suppliers like Black Rapids by Grant Anderson or Frozen Budz in Fairbanks is amazing. I believe all of us are treating our venture the same way, wanting it perfect and dedicating the world to it.
Any hopes for the future?
My store is small, so what I'd like to do is hopefully build a little bigger and fix our parking, pave everything and make it more accessible, and build a bigger warehouse on the lot for growing and a new retail store in the future. I want to develop the property. I want to do this and my son wants to do this when he is out of college, so we can make this a family biz for years to come.