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.