The Herbal Cache is Back
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Editor’s Note: The following Q&A was lightly edited for clarity and length.
Brent Carse is the new owner and operator of The Herbal Cache (THC) in Girdwood’s New Town Square. Brent was an employee for his mother and original THC co-owner Sue Carse before the business closed last year. Glacier City Gazette (GCG) met with Brent to discuss his business.
GCG: How long did it take for you to get this business going again?
THC: It took about 10 months to get through the licensing process. I had to have my state application as well as my Muni application. We did all of the inspections.
GCG: How did your experience with the first Herbal Cache help you through this process?
THC: It helped a lot. I knew the ins and outs of what I needed to do with that kind of system and going through the whole process. That made it a lot easier. It was a lengthier process than I thought it was going to be.
GCG: What did you learn from your experience the first time around?
THC: It gave me experience with everything from sales to taxes and the laws behind the industry as well as how to run the business, keep it going and support the community.
GCG: What is it like being the owner now?
THC: It helps a lot to have a great staff that work really hard. Our business creates a variety of cannabis jobs which in turn benefits our brand and the economy. It’s great to see the community come in and get feedback. You get to know people and see what they like. It has been a lot of work, so it’s a big transition with book keeping and regular maintenance to keep this shop up and going. I love what I’m doing.
GCG: How does the retail purchasing process work?
THC: A lot of the manufacturers and cultivators deliver to us. We pick up products occasionally. The whole industry is traced through METRC [Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance], which is our state inventory tracking system. Every delivery has a transfer manifest. We sign the papers and get in our system. It’s an open market. There’s no giant middle market. You meet cultivators and manufacturers. If it sounds like they have a good product fit for your store, you can move on from there.
GCG: What kind of changes have you made?
THC: There’s a completely new staff besides myself. The staff we have is awesome. There hasn’t been much of a change as far as customer experience. Everybody is friendly, knowledgeable and experienced. Everybody in the community seems pretty happy.
GCG: What is it like selling to visitors?
THC: It’s really nice being in the Town Square. People are walking around checking out Girdwood. A lot of people don’t realize that Alaska is a legal recreational state. They come in and their eyes are wide open when they realize they can buy marijuana or marijuana products. Alaska is exciting for a lot of people. It’s nice to give knowledge about the products we sell. Not only do people go out with a smile, they have a better understanding of the industry and marijuana.
GCG: How has the industry changed since you first started?
THC: We’ve gotten a lot bigger. The industry is evolving pretty fast. There are new laws and regulations being formed or they’re fine-tuning the details. There are tons of new cultivators in Alaska as well as manufacturers with edibles and concentrates. The variety in the market is nice right now. We’re getting to the point where the price is going down and the variety is going up. We’re seeing all kinds of things from drinks to all kinds of new edibles, crazy different strains people are producing and manufactured goods.
GCG: Through no fault of your own, when you first opened in Feb. 2017, you had limited selection because the cultivators weren’t there yet. The prices were really high because businesses needed to recoup their investment, which kept a lot of people away initially. One day I walked in to drop off GCG copies and saw the lower prices. Now people don’t have to rely on the black market.
THC: Exactly. That’s the coolest thing. That has to do with the number of cultivators coming into the market, which is driving down the price, which is really nice for the industry and the consumer. They get good prices and they can try out different varieties.
GCG: With cannabis flower, how do you decide what to purchase?
THC: There are a lot of different strains out there. First and foremost is if it’s a notable strain you know. The way the market is, the percentage or strength of the strain is a big thing. A lot of people often judge it on strength, which definitely isn’t the best way to judge different strains of cannabis. It’s justifiable I guess (people like strong strains like 3x crazy). We have a lot of cultivators we work with. Some cultivators will do a better job, whether they are nicer nugs or they’re trimmed better, something along those lines. Some are more mass-produced. It’s finding that middle line of cultivators who do a really good job and provide the strains that you and your customers like.
GCG: I’ve noticed the percentage of THC in cannabis flower has risen quite a bit since you first opened. Why is that?
THC: It’s kind of crazy in the market. That’s the evolution of a lot of these cultivators. They’ve gotten to a point to where they’re fine-tuning their growing techniques, so they’re able to produce these numbers where they’re incredibly high. But it’s nice to provide some other strains, like high CBD strains. We have some stuff that’s close to one to one of CBD and THC, so it’s not quite as psychoactive and stony. It’s a mellow, relaxing kind of strain. That comes with the evolution of the market. In the future, we hope to increase our range of CBD products so that whether you are looking for a cbda tincture or a CBD balm, you will be able to find everything you need under one roof.
GCG: How do you judge a strain?
THC: The main component is the look and the density to see if it’s plump or light. The second is the aroma, how it smells and the characteristics of the terpenes involved. The biggest one is how it smokes. If it has nice effects, some strains are going to be a little more uplifting and more of a head high. Some strains are going to be a more mellow and more of a body high. A lot of it is finding the strain suited to you specifically. Everybody has different tastes, so it’s nice to have variety.
GCG: What role do terpenes play in cannabis?
THC: Terpenes have a lot to do with cannabis. One of the easiest ones to understand is the aromas. There are six main terpenes. Some are aromas. Some are the effects you receive. Some are the biggest determining factors in different strains. That’s the thing that’s cool with the market right now. In the beginning, we saw a lot of terpenes were one or two percent. Now we’re starting to see them double. All of those aromas and flavors are a lot more. The cultivators are mastering their trade.
GCG: Are you allowed to sample strains or edibles to see how they are before you buy them?
THC: A lot of cultivators and manufacturers will send out samples before we get new products. For bud, we’ll get a couple of grams. For manufactured goods, somebody just dropped off cookies from a manufacturer in Ketchikan. It’s nice to try the products. Some of the cultivators we’ve worked with for a long time. We know they’re going to have a good product. We’ll take out samples from the product we get. All the budtenders try the products first to explain them better to customers.
GCG: What is your strain of choice right now?
THC: It has been my favorite strain for a couple of years now. It’s called Lemon Meringue. It’s a sativa grown by Alaska Rustic, which is one of our closest cultivators in Bird Creek. It’s a little lighter, but it has that euphoric type high. It has citrusy flavors that pop out. When you smell it and smoke it, there are great flavors.
The Herbal Cache
158 Holmgren Pl., Girdwood
Open every day 12-8 p.m.