The City of Turlock is close to issuing its fourth and final retail cannabis license as The Evergreen Market, headquartered in Renton, Wash., looks to finish up its application process in the coming weeks.
Thus far, two cannabis retailers — Perfect Union at 2500 N. Golden State Blvd. and Firehouse at 1601 W. Main St. — are operating within the city limits. A third, Natural Healing Center, is refurbishing the former El Rosal Mexican Restaurant at 3401 W. Monte Vista Ave., with an eye toward opening in the coming months.
A development-agreement hearing for Evergreen Market was slated to be held Aug. 4, but that has been postponed by the city due to the lengthy background-check process, according to Adrienne Werner, a senior planner for the city.
Undeterred by the delay, CEO Shannon Vetto remains optimistic that Evergreen Market soon will be able to begin renovations on their desired location at 101 E. Glenwood Ave., off Lander Avenue near Highway 99.
More than just optimistic, Vetto believes in Evergreen Market’s core mission.
“I just loved what they were doing,” said Vetto, referring to EM co-founders Arne Nelson, Jeff Anderson and Eric Gaston. “And I loved the reasons they were doing it. They didn’t really have to work anymore, but they wanted to work for a purpose.”
Nelson, Anderson and Gaston were all near 50 or in their 50s when they founded Evergreen Market eight years ago. Nelson worked in the tech industry, Gaston was a partner in a law firm and Anderson was an e-commerce entrepreneur. Along with Vetto, all were in position to consider slowing down … not jumping into a new industry they knew very little about.
“We spent a substantial amount of time doing our due diligence,” said Nelson. “We needed to know whether we wanted to get into this business and then, what kind of impact we wanted to have.”
Even before California passed its legalization initiative in 2016, the cannabis industry battled a “street corner” image that helped stigmatize the industry. To this day, cannabis is classified a Schedule I narcotic by the Controlled Substance Act.
Heroin also is a Schedule I substance.
Because of its Schedule I status, federal regulations make it next to impossible for entrepreneurs within the industry to obtain financing, said Vetto.
It’s those barriers that Evergreen Market wants to help topple.
“We want to build a place where people can be comfortable,” said Nelson. “And we want to help people understand. We think it’s a big injustice that cannabis is still listed as a controlled substance.”
Evergreen Market has locations in Auburn, Bellevue, Kirkland, North Renton and South Renton — all within 30 miles of Seattle. The stores’ floor plans resemble a “modern country market,” according to Nelson, and each features a “book bar” and an on-site educational leader to help patrons learn about an ever-evolving product.
“These guys that I work for care more about the path of progress than they actually care about the business, even though they are businessmen,” said Vetto, who spent the previous two decades helping Russell Investments expand its global footprint. “That, I can get my head around and that is what’s exciting to me.”