KALEAFA | Portland’s cannabis delivery depot is a family affair

Eaze Team
Apr 30, 2019

Kaleafa is Eaze’s dispensary partner in Portland. It’s also a home.

As you roll up on the Kaleafa Cannabis Company, Eaze’s dispensary partner in recently-launched Portland, Oregon, you might suspect you put in the wrong address. Where are the construction yards? The barbed fences, power transfer stations, corrugated steel?

But instead of the usual commercial purgatory that most city zoning officials set aside for marijuana businesses in California, you’re breezing down Portland’s leafy, shabby-chic Woodstock Boulevard, with its parade of casual ethnic restaurants, schools, boutiques, churches, and endless Craftsman-style homes.

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“You’ve arrived at your destination!” You double-take. Can this be right?

Then you see the signs. Welcome to the cannabis industry in Portland.

Julie Widmer, left, and Gus Goulet stand outside Kaleafa's main dispensary in Portland, Oregon.
Julie Widmer, left, and Gus Goulet stand outside Kaleafa’s main dispensary in Portland, Oregon.

“Kaleafa Cannabis Company is family,” says Julie Widmer (above, left), who co-founded the dispensary with her husband John (not pictured) when adult-use cannabis became legal in 2015, and began fulfilling Eaze delivery orders throughout Portland earlier this year.

With nearly 100 employees, one wholesale facility, five retail locations, and two more under construction, Kaleafa is still a bona fide mom-and-pop shop that just happens to have grown to mid-size in a short time. But as you make your way around their home base – a tight, two-story Craftsman whose bones would have any House Hunters couple salivating – it’s immediately evident.

This family-business thing? It’s not a catchphrase.

Around here it’s just the reality that manifested.

“Kaleafa was built with community in mind,” says Widmer, the longtime “mom” of the organization, who recently had to hand over HR duties as the company grew from a tiny handful of people. “From the locations to the actual employees, we reflect the environment we are located in … Kaleafa is strong because of our employees/family members and our customers. Our stores portray a warm and welcoming environment for all to enjoy.”

[SEE ALSO: THE BLAZER STATE | Why Oregon’s cannabis cred runs so deep]

To that end, Kaleafa is under construction during this visit (they’ve since finished a beautiful new retail front), but that’s not slowing down business. On this Monday afternoon, the sounds of customers and contractors mingle in the lobby. Out back, two fellas are building a new set of stairs for the Eaze drivers to use as they come and go.

Contractors building stairs for Eaze drivers at Kaleafa [photo by Josh Dickey]
Everywhere you look, members of this family are bustling about the house – parts of which still look and feel like a residence, and probably always will – either keeping the business running or helping to build out the new space.
Upstairs, in one of the tight corners of the jewel-box second story, a friendly young man is rolling joints like he’s ringing a bell. Everyone calls him “Thundercat,” and nobody asks why.
Thundercat says he can roll up to 400 joints per day [photo by Josh Dickey]
Down in the basement, Nick Harris (below, left) mans a terminal, managing Eaze orders for driver Paul Groopman (below, right). Over the first weeks, an initial trickle of orders has turned into a steady stream, as Portland customers begin to discover the lightning-fast online delivery service coordinated by Eaze.
Kaleafa employees Nick Harris, Jordan Fugitt, and Paul Groopman [photo by Josh Dickey].
Gus Goulet, who joined Kaleafa as a 20-year-old in the very beginning and is now IT director and compliance officer, says Portland didn’t have a delivery culture head-start at the moment of legalization like Southern California did.
How Eaze Works from Eaze on Vimeo.”It was really such a weird change to go from buying from your dealer,” Goulet says. “And we don’t have liquor delivery, so that idea is still a bit foreign. But it’s catching on.”A key to that will be customers learning that when they order from Eaze, they’re buying cannabis that is legal, licensed, and last but not least: local.

And the local weed is good.

Maybe you’ve heard, but things are a little … different in Portland. The dream of the ’90s, people talking about saving the planet and getting piercings and forming bands – if you’re looking for it, a lot of what Portlandia had to say about this place can hew a little too close to true.

But there’s also an easy, casual, wise-beyond-its-years vibe here that probably has much do with the fact that Oregon is a true cannabis OG.

Jason Nunely, center, shows off one of the Oregon strains at Kaleafa [photo by Josh Dickey].
“It’s the terroir of the soil,” says Jason Nunely, one of the budtenders on duty this day, and an executive chef by trade. “It’s the minerality of the volcanic ash and the climate conditions that make it one of the finest and most unique growing regions in the world.”

Oregon cannabis is indeed distinct in subtle ways that perhaps have more to do with growers’ tendencies and preferences than anything else; buds tend to be frostier, more colorful and exotic in appearance, compared with the Emerald Triangle’s green-dominant shades.

And Oregon consumers aren’t afraid of indica, which accounts for more purple and blue undertones with brightly colored hairs.

A peek inside the Mimosas jar at Kaleafa in Portland.
A peek inside the budtender’s Mimosa jar at Kaleafa in Portland [photo by Josh Dickey].
“Oregon has always been the sort of hippie, laid-back, pioneering territory – guys have been growing their own amazing strains here for so long, and it still has a little bit of that flair to it, I think, experimenting with the phenotypes and really playing around, Nunely says. “People in Oregon like to grow.”

For folks who also like to support local businesses – and that’s pretty much everyone around here – now there’s a way to do it with Eaze.

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