After a delayed grand opening due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan-based Nature’s Finest opened its Battle Creek dispensary in early June to serve the state’s medical and adult-use cannabis markets with a variety of products, as well as friendly and knowledgeable customer service from its budtenders.
Nature’s Finest originally planned to open March 15, but in response to the coronavirus crisis, it held off on launching medical cannabis sales until June 8 and added adult-use sales at the end of July.
“Since then, we have all the protocol in place with the masks—we wear masks all the time,” says Operating Partner John Kassa. “There’s a lot of sanitation always. Curbside is huge—a lot of people are placing their orders on Weedmaps and we’re going out to their car to deliver their order. It’s really just following the state protocol that’s in place.”
Kassa formerly worked with a cultivation operation in Colorado, and upon returning to Michigan, set to work launching his own cannabis business in the Wolverine State.
Kassa and his team initially planned to start up as a grow operation, but Kassa’s time in Colorado taught him that cultivators who didn’t have an outlet for their product had a difficult time selling it. This experience led Nature’s Finest to lead with a retail operation in Michigan’s market.
The company currently holds five licenses in the state to operate in both the medical and adult-use markets. One property in Lenox Township is licensed for cultivation, processing and retail, and Nature’s Finest holds two additional retail licenses in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.
The company has other properties, as well, that are awaiting municipal approval. In total, Nature’s Finest hopes to hold nine total licenses with the additional approvals, although the Battle Creek dispensary is its only operational location to date.
“Kalamazoo is our next property, and that one should be open within the next six weeks,” Kassa says. “It was a building already, but we’re just refacing it and beautifying it on the inside. The other three [facilities] will be open probably about March of next year. I’m excited to be able to finally reach the consumer on the medical and on the adult-use level.”
The company’s Battle Creek dispensary is split in half, with one side designated for medical products and the other designated for adult-use items. There are more products offered to medical patients, Kassa says, and registered patients can purchase higher doses of THC. (Adult-use products are capped at 100 mg, he says.)
Edibles are an emerging trend in Michigan’s market, he adds, and Nature’s Finest is prepared to meet this demand.
“It’s amazing that a few years ago, … edibles were scary because people had that experience of ‘I took too much’ or ‘My cousin makes brownies,’ but now we have products that are regulated and dosed, … and the flavors of these items are so delicious. It’s not like this disgusting, heavily influenced THC brownie. Now, there are just cookies and brownies that really do taste like baked goods. I’m really happy to see that trend in our marketplace.”
Kassa says Nature’s Finest has two main goals at its dispensary: to provide patients and consumers with a wide variety of products, and to provide friendly and knowledgeable customer service that fosters customer loyalty.
“We want people to come in and feel that they’re having undivided attention from the budtenders—that way they look forward to coming back to our stores,” Kassa says. “We want them to learn. We want them to enjoy that experience of coming in, and that’s how we set ourselves apart.”
Nature’s Finest prefers to hire staff with previous cannabis experience, and all new hires complete a two-to-four-week training course before serving customers.
“We’ve tried to look for people who have different [backgrounds]—growers, people that are processors,” Kassa says. “A lot of these people have done it on a smaller scale, but that’s OK because we want them to grow with the business.”
Nature’s Finest also brings in vendors as much as possible to educate the staff on their products.
Moving ahead, Kassa wants to continue learning as much as he can about market demand, and he looks forward to becoming vertically integrated as facilities become operational at the Lenox Township property.
“We want to be able to produce our own product and take it one step further into processing and see what the trends are, what our market calls for,” he says. “[We want to] launch our own brand and then hopefully, one day, when this is federally legal, you’ll see Nature’s Finest in all retail locations across the country."