The Homer area’s newest and second retail cannabis store opened Monday — April 20, or course, or 4/20, known among pot lovers as “Weed Day.” At 4:20 p.m., Ian and Micah Bear, owners of the new Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters, held a formal ribbon cutting at the log cabin shop near Mile 168 Sterling Highway.
For the Bear brothers, the opening had a bit of poignancy. Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters was founded and originally licensed by their father, Bill Bear, a Homer businessman. The building was almost finished and the business ready to open when Bill Bear died suddenly last December at the age of 70.
“We were about a week or two from opening when he passed,” Micah Bear said.
The Bear brothers had to work to finish construction of the shop. Micah Bear said contractor and family friend Keith Nelson “was real quick to help us. We had some loose ends to tie up to get it 100%. … He came (through) in the clutch. He and his guys helped us out.”
With the shop done, the Bear brothers also had another hurdle — getting their dad’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office retail license transferred into Ian’s name. Micah moved up to Alaska from Maryland to help run the business, but he doesn’t yet have sufficient Alaska residency to be a licensed owner. Everything worked out for them to open on Monday.
“The stars aligning for it to happen on 4/20 was the cherry on top,” Micah Bear said. “It was really nice.”
In American cannabis culture, “420” has become code for “time to get stoned.” According to Chris Conrad of the Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum, the numbers refer to 4:20 p.m., the time when a group of high schoolers at San Rafael High School in Marin County, California, would meet after school to smoke pot.
Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters joins Uncle Herb’s, the City of Homer’s first and only retail cannabis store, in the lower Kenai Peninsula retail cannabis business. Uncle Herb’s, located on Ocean Drive, opened in May 2018. Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters is the first marijuana retail store to open outside city limits under Kenai Peninsula Borough jurisdiction on the lower peninsula. It’s also the first cannabis store visitors coming to Homer will see at its location right by the Mile 168 marker just before where the highway bends before Baycrest Hill.
“We were looking for something close to town, but something a little outside so we could get a little more than the local Homer market, as many people as we could possibly reach,” Micah Brown said.
Micah Bear was born in Cordova, where his dad worked as a Bush pilot. The family moved to the east coast of Maryland, where Ian and Micah grew up. Bill Bear returned to Alaska, settling in Homer, where he ran tourist businesses like Lucky Pierre Charters and Mariners Gifts.
“This was his culmination, if you will,” Micah Bear said. “He was going to add this to his list of businesses.”
In a classic log building with a front porch, Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters has the look of a sourdough tourist shop. That was his dad’s concept, Micah Bear said. The shop features a lot of Alaska memorabilia, like a 49-star American flag. It has a simple layout, with one door for entrance and one for exit so traffic moves in one direction. People enter at a hallway where budtenders check identification — under Alaska law, you have to be age 21 to enter — and, in the new age of the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff can monitor the number of people who enter so no more than three are inside at one time. That gives plenty of room for staying 6-feet apart. Thanks to Frontier CBD, a Homer manufacturer, the shop has adequate supplies of hand sanitizer.
“Just practice smart social distancing,” Bear said. “We’re here to safely supply you with some weed and get you out of here germ free.”
Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters sells products from Frontier CBD (another cannabis business located within Homer proper) as well as pipes and paraphernalia, and a full line of cannabis products, including edibles, leaf, concentrates, cartridges, shatter and crumble, most of it from Homer area and Kenai Peninsula growers. Bear said in the first two days, the clientele has ranged from a woman who just turned 21 to senior citizens. Some customers shop for medicinal purposes, Bear said. One man sad he has a bad neck and likes cannabis for the pain. Most want to get high, “sit back, relax and watch a movie,” he said.
“One woman said — we have a strain called CBD Apocalypse — ‘That’s very timely.’ Everyone’s on edge and looking to clam down and enjoy it,” Bear said.
The store budtenders draw off their own experience, but also appreciate feedback from customers on products.
“We encourage them to let us know how that made them feel, but also is there something they want to see?” Bear said. “We want to take care of everyone.”
At the grand opening, Bear said Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters had a great day.
“It’s overwhelming support from the local community, from condolences to my dad,” he said. “There are so many people who knew him … (We) just appreciate everything. That means a lot to us.”
Alaskan Cannabis Outfitters is located at 41945 Sterling Highway, and is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call them at 443-945-0334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Instagram at alaskan_cannabis_outfitters.