Monday, August 24, 2015

Freedom Market in Kelso, WA

Retailer: Freedom Market
Location: Kelso, WA listing

Visited: 08/22/2015

Lowest-cost: $8  Purple So. Cal Master Kush Indica
Budtender: Cameron - cool, smiling, friendly, strain knowledge

Overall: Return and Recommend!
Highlights: Amazing selection.  Great service.  Value in all quantities.  Great atmosphere.

The Freedom Market is a solid green, and is only a little tough to see behind the hedgerow between the building and the road it's on.  There's parking on one side and in back.

Walking into the front of the Freedom Market, there's a small, well lighted lobby area with a few signs and warnings to have your ID at the ready and an 'employees only' restroom.  There's another small door to actually enter, and when you do enter the ambiance strikes you first.

There's a large customer space, which looks like it could have quite a few uses that I could think of.  I noticed there was a table and what looked like a couple of nooks with lots of information and some pamphlets available about legal marijuana in Washington.  However, I didn't really notice the sheets of paper that I saw sitting around because it was very dark.  While the dim lighting throughout the store enhanced the cool and fun ambiance from the various LED lit displays, it definitely kept my attention away from whatever might have been there on the walls and such.  I guess it's just a great reason to visit again and look around further.

As you approach the sales area, to your left are shelves with paraphernalia and other content.  They're really nicely laid out, well lit and organized.  All the product looks to be quality, even the lower cost items.

Once you ease past the color-changing LED lights on the glass shelf, there's another very pretty display.  This drew my attention first, actually, and I wanted so many of the things that are on this shelf.  I think one prime factor in my attention was that it is just retailed beautifully.  As a fan of nice stuff, I could tell I was getting some nice stuff out of this high-end cabinet, and the only white-lit cabinet in the store.  The others were colorful and it kind of made this feel like a special cabinet of wonders.

Aside from all the nails and domes on display here, there are some serious glass steamrollers and what I'm interested in most - the Dab Torpedo.  Mrs. the Ent said she would consider getting one for my birthday in December which would be pretty cool.

So entering the store you get met with lots of hardware and paraphernalia.  But this is a marijuana store!  I came here to buy marijuana.   Right past the hardware, there is what I think is the most marijuana I've yet to see in one retailer.  I was outright impressed by the serious volume of marijuana I faced and the reviewer in me got a serious thrill seeing the huge array of farms, brands, and strains.

Staring at this wall of pot, with brands I know like Doc Croc and Liberty Reach, there were also some I'd never heard of like JV Ranch (first review soon, of Marionberry) and Good Pot, as well as Kaidro concentrates.  I really like that brands are - for the most part - separated, and everything has a real organized, lined-up look.  When many i502 marijuana processors use a different sized bag, and some package in jars or a cardboard hanger, it can be impossible to keep a pegboard or display cabinet looking organized.  Freedom Market in Kelso very clearly keeps a serious attitude about this aspect of retailing, and this just totally makes for a better customer experience in all ways.  This is the kind of effort that drives customer returns and gets people expecting great things when they visit your store.

One of the best parts about this pegboard of marijuana is that it was actually two pegboards of marijuana!  There was a whole different wall of product available behind a very full glass cabinet.

Most retailers I've been to have a selection of marijuana.  This retailer has a serious variety, and it makes me so damn happy.  Again, I see quite a few brands I'm familiar with like Green Brothers Farms and PhatPanda.  I was really excited about the variety of PhatPanda marijuana.  PhatPanda is in fact the largest producer/processor by volume among all Washington i502 licensed operations.  I wanted what they've got since I first heard of them before I even got to WA, and since this first visit here, I've purchased many PhatPanda strains.  If you ever visit a retailer that has PhatPanda products, they all will have large jars of the marijuana strains they offer which are for inspection.  They have a magnifying glass so you can really get in and see what the product you're purchasing is like.  Uniqueness to the brand, and a deservedly hip image like this is how you become the biggest producer/processor.

Seriously, man - look at all that pot for sale.  There are just so many different products available in 1 and 2 grams, that it made it very difficult to choose what to purchase on this visit.  My wife and I both picked up multiple grams and pre-rolls.  Off to the right are Legal Soda and some Fairwinds infused coffee K-cups.  Yeah, that's a thing.

What I really want to do is visit Freedom Market for some quantity.  They had a huge array of larger quantity offerings, and many in unique, prime quality presentations. There were very large stoppered jars, twist-top jars, boxed products, and other really great looking product here.  Those PhatPanda magnification jars are on the top shelf of this case - you can see how relatively large they are.

Looking around and staring at professional looking displays of marijuana is a great way to shop.  Especially when you've got such a a variety of options, it's hard to know what's going to be a marijuana you enjoy.  When you visit a great retailer, what you need is a great budtender.  Meet Cameron, who has an exceptional waxed moustache, quite a bit of ink, and a welcoming, easy-going smile.  He's behind the other main glass display cabinet, where you can see a massive 10 gram joint for $99.99 and tons of quantity containers of marijuana.  Let's focus on the budtender here!

Many retail employees know their product, and that's great.  Lots of marijuana retailers have retail employees working.  Cameron's a budtender, and there's a legitimate distinction.  Cameron clearly knows his marijuana.  He guided me incredibly gently - barely asking questions, just listening - through what I might like in a marijuana, we discussed similarities in our preferred strains and effects, and then he found strains for me that were just what I was after.

Throughout it all, however, beyond just knowing strain names and something about their effects, he effortlessly explained his experiences with it, pointed out some particular highlights, and when I said I wanted to try a couple strains that didn't seem to match up with what I was saying I wanted out of my smoke, he switched up gears quickly and had great recommendations for those too.  The entire time I was talking with Cameron, he was attentive to the store.  Other customers came in and he greeted them warmly, inviting them to look around, and offering assistance.  We all kind of joined a big conversation at one point, right near the end of my transaction.  Even with 4 people talking to each other, he was able to professionally and smoothly ring out all my purchases, request and acccept payment, and give me my bag - which had a sticker business card for the store on it!  Great customer service here, and the kind of welcoming treatment you want when you go choose a place to spend your money.

One thing I noted on my visit was that they had multiple registers to satisfy customers during busy periods.  This, along with sufficient space for customers to shop, is critical to keeping the flow moving when peak traffic hits.  I'm glad to see that there was this sort of forethought put here, and it's the first marijuana retailer I've been to so far that had multiple registers.  This makes me feel like I'm in a legitimate business, a real operation that understands retail.

As you leave (out the back), there's a small sitting area and patio.  Sadly, i502 makes smoking marijuana on the premises of a retailer or in view of public illegal.  Otherwise, this would be a great place to come chill and get stoned on the marijuana you just purchased.

Overall, Freedom Market in Kelso was excellent, maybe the best marijuana retailer I've been to so far.  The ambiance is fun, the selection is just astounding, and the customer service was exceptional.  I got value for my money, and will definitely be returning.  As a matter of fact, I returned already since my first visit and Cameron held up the high expectations he set on this visit.

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