What: Bloom Well

What it does: Sells cannabis and cannabis products

Pictured: Owner Jeremy Kwit

Where: 1814 NE Division St., Bend; 20365 Empire Ave., Bend (under construction, shown at right)

Employees: 19

Phone: 541-317-1814

Website: www.bloomwellbend.com

Of the 20 retail marijuana shops licensed in Bend, two belong to Bloom Well, the company founded in 2013 by Jeremy Kwit, a 45-year-old entrepreneur originally from the San Fernando Valley of California.

A 13-year Bend resident, Kwit earned a bachelor’s degree in political economy at the University of California, Berkley, in 1994 and a master’s in business administration in 1999 from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. A conversation with Kwit reveals that he paid attention in class.

To a question about the retail environment he’s trying to create in the second Bloom Well dispensary, soon to open on NE Empire Avenue, he responded with a soliloquy on operating principles.

“The decision to run our business like a manufacturing environment is because behind the scenes we have as much going on as we do in the front of the house,” he said Thursday. “The back of the house is a miniature assembly or manufacturing environment. We’re third-party, clean-and-green certified. Our products are handled one time, with gloves, on stainless steel. We’re working 100 hours a week so that our clients don’t have to wait.”

The first Bloom Well location, on NE Division Street, opened as a medical marijuana dispensary, and Kwit frequently circles back in conversation to the medicinal qualities of cannabis. But Bloom Well was well positioned at a busy intersection when marijuana sales to adults for recreational use became a reality Oct. 1, 2015.

Kwit in 2015 described his approach to selling cannabis as the locavore method, drawing on many different growers and processors rather than growing and processing his own products. The Bulletin talked to Kwit recently about his background and his approach to business. His responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How many recreational marijuana licenses do you have?

A: We have three, two retail and one wholesale. In order to move product between one retail environment and another retail environment, it can’t move directly from one to another. So we have to move it electronically to a wholesale license and then to another retail license. It really is an interesting nuance to this regulated business. The fact that we have to have a wholesale business to move product between our retail businesses is an unintended consequence of the regulatory language that creates an additional burden and cost to us.

Q: Do you experience any stigma or stereotyping because of your involvement with cannabis?

A: That assertion is correct, and the same is also true for people who are consumers of cannabis. The stereotypes are just that, stereotypes, sensationalized by popular culture and the media. My purpose in creating Bloom Well is to create social policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. We’re trying to undo 70 years of terrible social policy and terrible public policy. We’re trying to move beyond prohibition.

Q: What response do you give critics of cannabis who point out the sometimes negative health effects?

A: I think the health concerns are real. There are folks in our culture who abuse a lot of things. There are food disorders, abuse of sugar; there are folks who abuse prescription pain medication. Cannabis is just one of those subjects. Not everybody should be consuming cannabis; not everybody should be consuming alcohol, either. We stopped criminalizing cannabis and that allows us to have a dialogue.

Q: What future is there for social consumption, for legal places where adults may partake of marijuana?

A: Imagine if people could only go home and drink alcohol by themselves and there wasn’t a place to connect with others. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with our retail environment, helping people connect with others. It’s dignifying for people to share a plant and share in their consumption of the plant with other people. We have clients who want to have stoner dating clubs, who don’t want to go to bars. These aren’t young adults; they’re all-age adults. Associating with others who have a common interest is a fundamental human right.

Q: Bloom Well is not a “vertically integrated” company; was that a conscious business decision?

A: It’s a very conscious business decision. When I purchase from Whole Foods or Market of Choice, I’m not purchasing my produce from Archer Daniels Midland, where I just get my soy, my rice and my corn. We want to celebrate the bounty of the farmer. Our motto is community-based, not profit-based. We are not so arrogant to think we can do everything. We want to give our consumers a choice.

Q: Where did you find the capital to start your business?

A: I borrowed from any friend or loved one who was willing to loan me the funds to keep our doors open. We’re completely self-funded and not beholden to any investor who will influence the decisions our business makes.

Q: Where do you see Bloom Well in five years?

A: We want to have more stores in more towns and in more states. We are uniquely successful in Bend in a really competitive cannabis environment. If we can perform well in one of the most competitive retail environments in all of the state, it means the model is working and we should replicate that model. What we’re selling is an experience, not just a plant.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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