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Dr. Green Thumb's Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 2 months ago on
April 12, 2024
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Dr. Green Thumb's opened last week in the Tower District. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

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Two more cannabis retailers are joining the Fresno market. Both have been a long time in planning.

“I chose B-Real for the Tower District because I wanted something totally original, totally different. It’s the only Dr. Green Thumb’s in the Central Valley and the only one outside of Los Angeles area.” — Dr. Green Thumb’s owner Kacey Auston-Tibbets

Dr. Green Thumb’s opened last Saturday, five years after local owner Kacey Auston-Tibbetts leased the building in the Tower District. She partnered with legendary rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill.

“I chose B-Real for the Tower District because I wanted something totally original, totally different. It’s the only Dr. Green Thumb’s in the Central Valley and the only one outside of Los Angeles area,” Auston-Tibbetts said.

B-Real appeared at the April 6 opening at 1264 N. Wishon Ave. in Fresno. Auston-Tibbetts said people lined up the night before.

Sweet Flower, in central Fresno (3123 N. Maroa Ave. at Shields Avenue), is scheduled to open Saturday, April 13.

The locations are the eighth and ninth legal retailers in Fresno. The city said cannabis tax revenue came in only at $2 million this fiscal year — well below expectations. With more stores opening, the city is predicting an increase to $7 million.

Sweet Flower Cannabis Shop is at 3123 N. Maroa Ave. at Shields Avenue. It opens Saturday, April 13. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Emerging from Cannabis ‘Recession’

This is the second Fresno cannabis dispensary for Auston-Tibbetts. She opened a Cookies brand in December and expects business to pick up.

An overproduction of legal cannabis, she said, caused a slight recession.

“But now things are ticking up. And, we had our first three months out on Blackstone and, it’s been going well. And this one, we had record numbers showing up on opening day. The Tower was ready for it,” Auston-Tibbetts said.

The city can award up to 21 retail cannabis permits. More retailers are in the process of opening, perhaps later this year. Auston-Tibbetts doubts all 21 will open.

Still, Auston-Tibbets and Dodd say there is enough demand to go around.

“The beauty of retail, whether it’s cannabis or clothing, is you don’t all have to win. There’s a large slice of the pie we can share,” Dodd said.

Every store has its niche, she said. Dr. Green Thumb’s has its obvious ties to B-Real.

“He’s been an advocate to legalize it for 20 years. Plus, he kind of markets himself. It’s really nice,” Auston-Tibbetts said.

Both have different pricing strategies. As more stores open, Dr. Green Thumb’s plans to stay competitive with loyalty deals — special sales to its members.

Dodd disagrees with that approach.

“I think that’s kind of confusing to customers because they have to go and get that deal on a certain day. And that is kind of how the cannabis industry has traditionally marketed products. We’re going to do it differently. So our approach is everyday low prices,” Dodd said.

Both stores offer exclusive brands: B-Real’s own brand at Dr. Green Thumb’s and Golden State at Sweet Flower.

Marketing B-Real

Cypress Hill’s music plays inside Dr. Green Thumb’s. Images of B-Real with his signature afro are everywhere. His memorabilia hangs on the wall.

The store has several display cases, with all types of ways to consume marijuana — edibles, pre-rolls, and more. A “budtender,” tablet in hand, can help customers find the right product, then proceed to the checkout.

Housed in a long-ago abandoned Bank of America building, Auston-Tibbetts leased the space five years ago. It even has the original vault in the back  which sits empty because modern safes are better. Dr. Green Thumb’s spent more than $1 million to renovate.

Auston-Tibbetts grew up in Fresno, a longtime businesswoman and publicist. She was raised around cannabis.

“I grew up in an era that parents consumed. And that was not something you talked about because it was illegal. So the fact that it is in the forefront, it is as legal as having a glass of wine at the end of the day, that interested me. The market share interested me as a business owner, as well as the jobs opportunities that you can provide. I mean, these are good paying jobs with a high school diploma for over 21, and that’s it,” she said.

She joked that for of all her life accomplishments — business success, being a mom — her father was most proud that she opened a cannabis retailer.

“I’m a 54 year old woman with arthritis. I use edibles,” Auston-Tibbetts said.

Images of B-Real are aplenty at Dr. Green Thumb’s in Fresno (at top). Below, some of the products. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Appealing to the Softer Side

Dodd, a New Zealand transplant now living in Culver City, was a media executive for a cable company. He transitioned into his cannabis.

“I thought that if this is going to be becoming a huge industry in California, the point of presence for these retail stores needs to be so much better. And therefore Sweet Flower was born to address that service selection location. That’s what Sweet Flower is about.” — Sweet Flower owner Tim Dodd

Dodd was a long distance cyclist. He hurt himself during training in a “catastrophic accident.” Doctors prescribed opiates for his pain.

“I decided that was a really bad idea,” Dodd said.

Instead, he went to a local cannabis store and came away unsatisfied.

“I thought that if this is going to be becoming a huge industry in California, the point of presence for these retail stores needs to be so much better. And therefore Sweet Flower was born to address that service selection location. That’s what Sweet Flower is about.”

Dodd still uses, “often.”

One of the issues, Dodd said, was the male-oriented marketing.

“Girls in bikinis and that kind of stuff. And that’s just … not our ethic,” Dodd said.

Sweet Flower, Dodd thought, was a more gender-neutral name.

“I think it’s just very southern California … It’s very much about the flower, which is really the mother of the plant. Right? That’s what I think of when I think of cannabis. It’s a natural plant. Right. It’s nothing beyond that … then sweet was just another word I wanted to play with. I thought that’s a really cool thing to add in,” Dodd said.

The store design of Sweet Flower, Dodd said, is industrial “almost like a sneaker box.”

The interior of Sweet Flower. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Overcoming Backlash

When Dr. Green Thumb’s initially presented its aesthetic plans to the community, there was backlash from the public and city councilmembers. The store adjusted.

In addition to her two stores, Auston-Tibbetts also won a third permit to open in the Pinedale neighborhood. Backlash to its proximity to a school led to the city council revoking the permit and awarding it to another retailer.

She also thinks cannabis now has more support from City Hall then when California voters legalized marijuana in 2016.

“A lot of people at City Hall were not real thrilled about it. And were pumping the brakes as much as they could. Now the stigma is lifted and the community’s out to support,” Auston-Tibbetts said.

Dodd originally wanted to open Sweet Flower at Olive Avenue and First Street.

“That location became quite, I’d say, difficult due to … security issues and vagrancy and other things that were happening in that area,” Dodd said.

Dodd and Auston-Tibbetts said it was important to hold neighborhood meetings and address concerns.

Black Market Still a Problem

City officials say the continuing black market as one reason why tax revenue is underperforming.

“It’s not your friendly neighborhood drug dealer anymore. It’s a storefront that’s masking and doing illegal sales,” Auston-Tibbetts said about the illegal market.

The city attorney’s office has been cracking down on illegal storefronts. In January, the city busted the AOA Private Golf Club, accusing the business of illegally selling marijuana products. Last November, the city raided four smoke shops.

The black market, which doesn’t charge taxes, cuts into the legal cannabis, Dodd said. But, legal stores offer safe and tested product.

Dodd says the illegal sellers are much worse in Los Angeles.

Cash and Debit Only

Customers are still restricted from using credit cards at marijuana retailers. Cash and debit cards will have to do. With that volume of cash, both stores use trucks to make regular pickups.

Fresno Legal Cannabis Map

 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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