There’s a moment in a recent episode of Leafly’s The Roll-Up podcast where the hosts describe their experiences exploring many of the different pot shops while vacationing in Las Vegas. “We pulled up to Reef, which is far and away the busiest dispensary in Las Vegas,” says host Bruce Barcott. “It was a zoo… It […]
There’s a moment in a recent episode of Leafly’s The Roll-Up podcast where the hosts describe their experiences exploring many of the different pot shops while vacationing in Las Vegas.
“We pulled up to Reef, which is far and away the busiest dispensary in Las Vegas,” says host Bruce Barcott. “It was a zoo… It was jam-packed, it was hoppin’. The lines were busy, people were coming and going in Uber’s and Lyft’s and taxis.”
That description couldn’t be more fitting. Walk into Reef Dispensary’s “Las Vegas Strip store” – one of six locations – and you’ll see what The Wall Street Journal described as “the world’s happiest line.” Giddy people queue up sampling CBD products while listening to Cardi B and Logic tracks, waiting for their turn to cop some legal weed. The line moves fast, and sure enough, customers are pouring out of cabs and rideshares – some that are clearly fresh from baggage claim. It’s a revolving door of curious tourists and returning locals.
Rewinding to the night of July 1st, 2017, the scene was very different. Fireworks exploded in the sky from the top of Reef’s building at midnight to celebrate “Day 1”, the first day of recreational pot in Nevada. A line of roughly 1,000 people circled the building, amidst a media frenzy. Waits were up to an hour long.
“We thought Okay, this is great. But how can we make sure that nobody has to wait in a line like this ever again?” says Adam Ryan, CEO and founder of Tryke Companies, the parent company of Reef. “We gave ourselves a ‘C’ in terms of customer experience that day. We had work to do.”
Like many dispensaries, the jump from medical to recreational in Nevada impacted Reef’s traffic significantly. Operating 24 hours a day at both Southern Nevada stores, Reef’s central Las Vegas Strip location sees more customers per day than any other dispensary in the country. In 2017, Lyft named it as one of the most visited destinations in the city.
“We went from serving hundreds of customers per day in the medical market to serving over 4,000 customers per day in Nevada on a regular basis,” says Ryan.
According to Ryan, the long lines and wait times were not unique to Day 1, as they continued into the summer, with the Nevada sun beating down on customers. Having to adapt to the new influx of business on the fly, they tried everything in the short term to keep people happy, from putting up makeshift tents to handing out bottled water and popsicles. But what really needed to happen was total refinement of the retail process and overall customer experience. Medical was one thing, but operating a 24-hour recreational cannabis dispensary in one of the biggest vacation destinations on the planet was a different beast.
“We are nimble as it relates to change. That has been one of the keys to our success. We focus on new and innovative ideas to better serve our patients and customers every day,” says Mark Conley, Director of Retail for the company. Formerly a Walmart district manager for 25 years, Conley’s expertise was put into play to help reshape the overall experience customers have when coming to Reef. For instance, an October 2016 Complex article described Reef Dispensary as having “a design aesthetic that takes a page from the Apple Store,” which since then, many shops have embraced as well, implementing iPads and large wooden tables, presumably following Apple’s (or Reef’s) lead.
“We tried that model and it failed,” says Conley. “Ultimately, it became like a Blockbuster Video, where people were just roaming around the property trying to make a decision for 45 minutes. IPads break or need maintenance. Customers don’t understand the transaction flow. That doesn’t work when you are the busiest dispensary in the country. We are about getting you in and out and making sure that you have the best experience possible in that short time period.”
This level of service is not exclusive to Reef’s Strip locale. A trip to their North Las Vegas location paints a similar picture, it too is a constant revolving door of happy people.
“We actually see almost an equal amount of customers daily at our North Las Vegas location as our Las Vegas Strip store. Primarily locals,” say Conley, suggesting that their prime real estate adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip is not the sole factor of their success.
That said, what does Reef think about more dispensaries moving into that stretch of land by the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas? Locals have nicknamed it ‘The Green Mile,’ as it is quickly becoming a district made up entirely of dispensaries and strip clubs. Some of these competitors are attempting to create pot shops with tourist attractions attached.
“We think it’s great. It’s going to drive more business to us and everyone else in the immediate area. If you want cannabis in Las Vegas, this is where the action is,” says Tryke Companies CEO Adam Ryan. “But at the end of the day, customers will ask the same questions ‘How’s the weed? How is the customer experience?’ Bells and whistles are awesome for museum type setups, but we’re more concerned with our own quality product and speedy service.”
That “quality product” that he refers to is grown right on site at Reef’s central Las Vegas location, which explains why Reef’s building is so incredibly large. A rumored 165,000 square feet capacity, Reef is what is known as a “vertically-integrated” dispensary, meaning that they grow the product under the same roof that they sell it from. Reef’s brands include Tryke, which encompasses their flower and concentrated cannabis extracts; Bake Sale, a line of edibles; and of course, Khalifa Kush, a line of products endorsed by rapper Wiz Khalifa. According to Tryke Cultivation Manager Trevor Merk, their Nevada grow is made up of carefully selected, hand-picked genetics, from exclusive strains like Cherry Cobbler and Orange Zkittlez to well-known heavy hitters like Pie Hoe and Wedding Cake. Anything that does not meet the company’s internal quality standards is not released and is quickly phased out.
“Having a vertically-integrated facility like this, we are able to maintain the highest quality standards of all of our products, whether its flower, edibles, or extractions. We have our own system of checks and balances, so we are not constantly subject to third party purchasing, which may not meet the internal quality standards that we have for ourselves,” explains Merk. “If it’s not up to snuff, it’s axed from the production line. If it doesn’t meet our quality standards, we don’t want to put the Tryke name on it or carry it at Reef. Having that level of control gives us a huge advantage in terms of what we stock our stores with,” explains Merk.
As of October 2018, the company just celebrated the hiring of its 420th employee, adding to a diverse mix of seasoned professionals from various industries and ambitious young employees eager to learn more about the industry. According to Tryke Companies Chief Human Resources Officer Randall Gleave, this group prides itself on being able to learn from one another. He says that Tryke is one of the few companies in the cannabis industry to offer full employee benefits, healthcare, and paid time off, so with literally thousands of applicants for each position, its selection process is meticulous. Gleave feels that this has resulted in the strongest team in the industry.
“We have one of the most diverse workforces that I have ever put together,” says Gleave, who brings 30 years of hiring experience to the table at Tryke Companies. “We’re a very ethical organization in an industry that comes from a very stigmatized background. We wanted to build a company that would be professional and add to the legitimacy of this amazing plant. I feel that we have accomplished that.”
The winning combination of a five-star team and keen attention to detail in terms of product and service has certainly paid off, as Reef was one of ten companies named in the Retail / Delivery Experience category of Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Green / Entrepreneur 100 Cannabis Leaders 2018” list. With plans for strategic expansion both within Nevada and into other markets, it sounds like Reef is just getting started.