Andre Bustos, General Manager, ECO Cannabis (Bustos): ECO symbolizes many things, from commitment to the environment to striving for equity in the legal cannabis industry. The City of Oakland made history with passing the Cannabis Equity Ordinance in to legislation. It recognized how the War on Drugs adversely affected communities of color and aimed to ensure that individuals who were historically targeted by police are able to fully engage and participate now that cannabis is legal. As a cannabis retail dispensary, we have gone out of our way to do a few things:
- Hire 100% Oakland residents
- Ensure that 50% or more of our jobs at the retail dispensary are reserved for Oakland residents who have been formerly incarcerated, often for cannabis-related crimes
- Incubate eight Oakland-based Cannabis Equity Businesses, each of which support ECO in some way
- Stock local Oakland Equity brands on our shelves
We incorporate the idea of equity, opportunity, and upward social mobility into our business model in hopes that we rise up with the community side-by-side.
FRK: According to reviews, you are one of the highest rated cannabis shops in Oakland. What differentiates you from other cannabis shops?
Bustos: We go the distance with training and development for our crew. They are “Cannaseurs.” We have also designed our shop to be open, bright, and welcoming. Whether you’re a regular or are coming in for the first time, you’ll feel nothing but comfortable. Issa vibe.
FRK: Describe your approach to customer service and the customer experience.
Bustos: We designed the shopper experience with a specific “flow” in mind. It is meant to provide the quality service marked by education and inclusion in an efficient way. You can come in and get what you need in under five minutes. We also try to make it an atmosphere where our customers are put at ease, feel comfortable, get a chance to explore our product offering, and ask questions. We outstretch our hands to build a bond and make a connection with each of our customers. We know people come in for both recreational and medicinal needs, and sometimes that means people are revealing some deep problems and looking for relief. It’s flattering to see people go out of their way to leave reviews online after a visit.
FRK: On the site, you mention that all of your products are derived from the highest quality flower. What can you tell me about your products and approach to choosing the products to sell at ECO?
Bustos: The two people who are at the helm have over 20 years’ experience between them in cannabis. The curation of products that ends up on our shelves goes through a rigorous selection process. All of California is new to legal recreational weed under Prop 64. Our head buyer, Matthew Miller does a stellar job. He considers a myriad of factors, including (and certainly not limited to) lab testing results, terpene profiles, and production processes. He also ensures shelf space is reserved for Oakland Equity brands as well. As a result, Eco Cannabis carries only the cleanest cannabis products.
FRK: On the site, ECO calls itself “leaders of the community” and seems to have a community-driven mission. Can you expand on that?
Bustos: Our community is extremely important to us. We’re part of a community of builders and movers to create the future of what The Town is going to look and feel like. We’re all about adding value to the customer through education and it’s important that this value is a part of our growth.
FRK: What does it mean to ECO to be a local small business based in Oakland?
Bustos: We’re on a street where everyone is a locally-owned business. Our neighbors, Burrito Express and Telegraph Wine & Spirits have been here for decades. We are also really proud to be part of Oakland First Fridays, a street culture and art fair that happens every First Friday of the month. It’s a local non-profit, and we’ve partnered with them for clothing and toy drives this year. Being a small business in this area means that we contribute to one another’s success.
FRK: What is next for ECO?
Bustos: ECO will be launching our in-house cultivated flower and concentrates in the near future. We are very excited for what’s to come! We’ve been cooking this up for a while now, and we are excited to share and give the community what we believe to be the best cannabis product out there.
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