Dockside Cannabis – Ballard, WA
It was just another Tuesday when Dockside Cannabis saved a life. An older man, drenched in sweat and fumbling to find his ID, motioned me to pass him in line at Dockside’s SODO location. I frequented this shop to see Johnny, one of Seattle’s best budtenders. Johnny could intuit a customer’s smoking palette like nobody’s business. I had hardly said hello before the elderly man collapsed, and Johnny shot into action. He settled the man and kept him conscious while directing others to call an ambulance and to bring water. He addressed the store, asking if a doctor was on the premises. One was. With quick and careful attention, the man seemed stable as the ambulance arrived. So many pot shops claim to support their communities. On that Tuesday, I became a believer.
Dockside Cannabis has a longstanding reputation for pioneering. Before co-owners Maria Moses, Aaron Varney and Oscar Velasco-Schmitz founded the Dockside Co-Op in Fremont, Washington, they met as MBA candidates at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. They believed in an opportunity to affect positive change by bringing business rigor into medical marijuana. This was in 2010, when cannabis regulation was avant-garde. 2018 saw two new stores open in Ballard and Aurora, totaling four unique Dockside operations. Aaron Varney emphasized “community” and “sustainability” as primary business focuses going forward. By focusing on their people and their operations instead of investor-fueled empire building, Dockside is building a legacy Varney says “will not be easily washed away.”
With the opening of Ballard’s industrial-chic boutique a mile off from the Ballard Locks, Dockside is introducing “a new concept in Seattle Cannabis,” says Maria Moses. “We’ve watched trends in the community” she went on, “and people are ready for a self-shopping experience.” The self-shopping experience soothes a major pain point in recreational cannabis: the line and menu-based sales model, in which budtenders double as cashiers. Ballard’s doors open to The Wall of Strains, an up-to-date registry of their entire selection organized by phenotype, producer, taste and effect. Customers can engage with and learn about the selection privately before engaging budtenders. Self-shopping frees up both the customer and budtender for a freer-flowing and personable experience. “A very interested customer could comfortably have a 30-minute conversation at Ballard,” says Varney.
“We’ve watched trends in the community, and people are ready for a self-shopping experience.” – Maria Moses, Dockside Cannabis co-owner