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CBD stores see strong demand, potential for expansion

Melissa Bellovary didn’t expect her business to begin this well. It entailed a new line of work, and many unknowns existed.

Through the first six months, though, sales have exceeded her hopes. Bellovary owns Your CBD Store, part of a nationwide chain and growing field of businesses that have products aimed toward people dealing with anxiety, pain and inflammation.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, comes from the cannabis plant and is sold in a variety of forms at multiple Eau Claire stores. Local offerings include topical creams, oils, water solubles, ingestible gummies and several types of drinks.

People must be 18 or older to purchase CBD. Stores like Your CBD opened recently due to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 that descheduled some cannabis products and allowed for more commercialization of hemp, another strain of cannabis that can be consumed or used to produce items like concrete, wood and rope.

At shops in Eau Claire, many customers are older adults in search of pain relief. Evolution Hemp general manager Jesse Bates said about 70% of the customers are age 60 and above. Karin Kirchner, wellness buyer at Just Local Food Cooperative, said the vast majority of customers are 40 and over, with nearly half of them being 60 and older.

Sellers can offer different categories of CBD products. Broad spectrum means a product contains zero THC — the ingredient in cannabis that produces a “high” feeling — while full spectrum means an item has more than zero but less than 0.3% THC.

Bellovary said older citizens often express skepticism to try the products because they incorrectly fear it will result in a high.

“That’s the first thing they say: ‘It’s not going to make me goofy, is it?’” Bellovary said.

Shoring up misconceptions is part of the job, and Bellovary enjoys interacting with people and forming friendships with repeat customers. Kirchner concurred and said most of the customers are repeat buyers who feel comfortable purchasing CBD from people who can educate them about the products.

Bates, whose store opened this February, said one of his main goals involves “clearing up the stigma around cannabis” and educating potential buyers. Bates has found success early as well and said he has met his sales goals every month so far.

Most of the materials at Hemp Evolution are supplied from local farmers. The offerings at Just Local Food — which has sold CBD products since May 2018 — come from businesses in California, while Bellovary only sells products from a company based in Colorado. Bellovary’s business is going so well, in fact, that she will open a new store in Menomonie next week and hopes to have five total businesses around the state in the next year or so.

CBD and hemp offerings are not panaceas, however. Like any product, CBD offerings can be misused, so the stores aim to educate people and help them find the best option to suit their needs. One main concern involves mixing ingestible CBD with other medication. If that could result in a negative reaction, employees might recommend topical cream or tinctures instead. In general, people should consult with a physician before taking CBD products to learn more about potential impacts.

According to Bellovary, Bates and Kirchner, they have talked to a small percentage of customers who did not have positive experiences. When that happens, they try to figure out what didn’t work and attempt to find a better medium or dosage. Moreover, none of the materials are paid for by health insurance providers, and Bellovary said some people are hesitant to use it for fear of failing a drug test. Bellovary recommends checking with employers about company policies relating to CBD before ingesting it.

The local stores operate separately, but Bates enjoys having multiple entities independently working toward the same goal.

“As long as we’re all educating the same way, that’s what I want to see, is just clearing up the stigma around this plant,” Bates said.

Kirchner believes the industry will continue to grow and said there is enough local demand for all the different offerings. She said CBD and similar products will become more normalized as the years go on.

“This isn’t going to go away,” Kirchner said.

The early returns on CBD have largely proved good for business, and local workers believe they could be on the ground floor of a potentially blossoming industry.

Everything must go

My father lived at 617 Harding St. in Chippewa Falls since 1953, the year he and my mother bought an unfinished two-story house. When he died in April at age 93 he left behind about five tons of relics, including three floors of furniture from 10 decades, 120 bud vases, 200 plus 8-tracks, vintage Jim Beam decanters, a sauerkraut crock and 1,000 Amoco Christmas plates still in their original packaging.

Ten days before Dad died, he asked me, “You won’t get a dumpster, will you?” He teared up. Dying was inevitable; his real sadness came from leaving his house and his things.

I teased, “The only reason we’d get one is because it would be so fun for me to dig your stuff out of it.” My parents were collectors who filled every inch of every room. Their kids run the gamut from borderline-hoarders like a few of my five sisters and me to neatniks like my two brothers.

Dad taught me to dumpster dive. Neither of us could ever drive past any “FREE” sign or even just items at the curb. I currently have 10 mismatched dining chairs in my garage, part of my personal mission to keep perfectly good pieces out of the landfill even if I have no plan for them.

Dad was an “American picker” — long before there was a TV series — at auctions in his younger years and at thrift sales his last 25 years. He once got a great deal on 10 pairs of his dead neighbor’s underwear. My standards are a bit higher.

In “What Happens to Your Stuff When You Die?” Shane Cashman writes about his experiences working for an estate appraiser: “You learn a lot about a dead man rifling through his house — lifting his furniture, clearing his walls, going through his closets, finding out which psalms are dog-eared in his Bible — searching for anything that might be worth selling at auction. It feels like trespassing.” Cashman laments that he clears out homes of the dead until there is no trace of them.

The longer we live, the more things we amass. Recently that abundance has led to big business. One in 11 Americans pays for storage space, what one critic calls the “overflow of the American dream,” at an average cost of about $90 per month.

Dad didn’t believe in wasting money. Besides, he had three floors and a two-car garage with rafters; he made his own storage unit.

Currently there are more than 50,000 facilities in the U.S., which offer about 2.3 billion square feet of space to rent. One creative reporter calculated that the volume of these self-storage units could fill the Hoover Dam 26 times over. What happens to this excess after death? It’s often auctioned off to bidders hoping to discover a suitcase of gold coins or a $2 million Superman comic.

Dad’s best treasures were divided among his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren — add our partners and we’re a crew of 65. Then we held an estate sale and a week later gave the rest away in a two-hour free-for-all from Dad’s garage.

The last day of our July sale we take a break inside Dad’s air-conditioned house, and my family and I sing happy 70th to our oldest sister. Hers is the last See birthday we will ever celebrate at 617 Harding. Even the timbre of our voices sounds different in these empty rooms. Soon enough another family will live here.

As my parents are erased from their house, they appear in mine. Dad’s framed 4-H art project from when he was 7 and the deer horns he taxidermied when he was 57 now hang in my bathroom. In my hallway I recently mounted the original wooden house number sign he took down when he put on vinyl siding 40 years ago. I’ll always have “617” with me.

The first Saturday in August we arrange for Sofas for Service, a local veterans organization, to pick up Dad’s furniture and three vacuums just before our mass give-away. Even while volunteer Pete and his partner load up their truck, cars line the street in waiting.

Once I put up our FREE sign, the feeding frenzy begins, one Dad would have loved to watch. He liked a bargain but free was always better. Someone immediately grabs our “family tuxedo,” which I last wore trick-or-treating in 1983. A 30-something fills a bag of music cassettes. “My grandpa is into tapes,” he tells me.

“Then you should take a few more,” I say.

People are shy. More than one person asks, “This is really all free?”

Across the street two entrepreneurial siblings, ages 5 and 6, notice the crowd and set up a folding table to sell ice cold lemonade for a nickel. I sit in the shade and watch our customers carry their loads of freebies to cars, then beeline to the kids. Soon their price shoots up to $25, until Mom comes out to set them straight about the cents versus dollar sign.

A guy picks up Dad’s chimney sweep, which looks like a fancy metal lantern. I walk towards him just to ask, “What are you gonna do with that?”

He says, “Use it in one of the fountains I build.”

“A chimney sweep?”

He shows me photos on his phone: a bed frame rigged onto stilts behind a 3-tiered water feature with scavenged scrap metal scattered throughout the rock. Bizarre and perfect. Who would giggle most at this? Dad.

A woman cradles five VHS tapes and an adult toilet topper, Dad’s “throne.” This pairing makes me smile. If Dad was here, I’d joke, “Guess what she’s gonna do when she gets home?” And he’d shoot back, “I can’t believe some people have a TV and a tape player in their bathroom.” These past four months, I’ve had plenty of conversations with my dead father.

Someone I’ve never seen before says to me, “Sorry for your loss, girl.” Her voice drips with kindness. She’s here because she saw my Craigslist ad: “Everything must go. Our dad didn’t want his 93 year’s worth of treasures going in a dumpster. Come take anything for free.”

Dad may live on forever in some rural water feature or a much shorter time for the dude who took a box of his half-used shampoos and lotions. I’ll realize later that all of these strangers — who grab Dad’s faded bath towels and sheets, his plaid shirts and slippers, his toy trucks and mixing bowls — are part of my family’s grieving process as we give our father away piece by piece.

Residents of North Carolina's Outer Banks brace for Dorian

WILMINGTON, N.C. — After triggering tornadoes in South Carolina, Hurricane Dorian was closing in for a possible direct hit Friday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a string of low-lying islands, even as it weakened to a Category 1 storm.

On Ocracoke Island, near the southern end of the 200-mile-long string of barrier islands and spits, about 500 of the 1,000 residents have stuck around to face the storm, said Ann Warner, the owner of Howard’s Pub on the island.

“The boats are tied down. Yards are cleaned up. Businesses are closed. People are hunkered down,” Warner said by phone Thursday.

The ferries stopped service on Wednesday, she noted.

“It’s too late to leave,” Warner said. “If you want to change your mind, it’s too late. We’re on our own.”

Further north, Virginia was also in harm’s way, and a round of evacuations was ordered there.

The hurricane hammered the Bahamas with 185 mph winds, killing at least 30 people, but swept past Florida at a relatively safe distance, grazed Georgia, and then hugged the South Carolina-North Carolina coastline. At least four deaths in the Southeast have been blamed on the storm.

Twisters spun off by Dorian peeled away roofs and flipped trailers in South Carolina, and more than 250,000 homes and businesses were left without power. Dorian’s winds weakened after sunset Thursday to 100 mph (161 kph), before falling further early Friday to 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm.

In coastal Wilmington, North Carolina, heavy rain fell horizontally, trees bent in the wind and traffic lights swayed as the hurricane drew near.

Overnight winds were expected to cause trees and branches to fall on power lines, and debris could block repair crews from accessing damaged lines, said Mike Burnette senior vice president of Electric Cooperatives, a utility provider in North Carolina. Customers should prepare for prolonged power outages, he said.

“We have a long night ahead of us. Everyone needs to stay in a safe place and off the roads until the storm passes,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

About 150 evacuees were camped out at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, speedway spokesman Scott Cooper said.

Leslie Lanier, 61, was one of those who decided to stay behind on Ocracoke Island. She boarded up her home and bookstore, making sure to move the volumes higher.

“I think we’re in for a great big mess,” Lanier said.

The National Hurricane Center forecast as much as 15 inches of rain for the coastal Carolinas, with flash-flooding likely.

On Thursday, Dorian swamped roads in historic downtown of Charleston, South Carolina, and knocked down some 150 trees and toppled power lines. Gusts had topped 80 mph (129 kph) in some areas. The port city of handsome antebellum homes sits on a peninsula that is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms.

Dorian apparently spawned at least one tornado in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, damaging several homes, and another twister touched down in the beach town of Emerald Isle, North Carolina, mangling and overturning several trailer homes in a jumble of sheet metal. No immediate injuries were reported.

The four deaths attributed to the storm in the mainland U.S. took place in Florida and North Carolina. All of them involved men who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane.

As of early Friday, Dorian was centered around 55 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 30 miles south-southwest of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, moving northeast at 15 mph. The storm is expected to weaken slowly over the next few days, but will likely remain a hurricane as it moves along the coast of North Carolina.

Navy ships were ordered to ride out the storm at sea, and military aircraft were moved inland. More than 700 airline flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday were canceled. Hundreds of shelter animals were airlifted from coastal South Carolina to Delaware.