Marijuana moves into Uptown Village

While some businesses welcome marijuana store, others express concerns

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When Bonnie Brasure heard a week ago that one of Vancouver's first marijuana shops would soon be opening across the street from her bakery, she was shocked.

"My jaw fell to the ground," she said.

Brasure has owned Bleu Door Bakery on Main Street for just over two years and has watched the area of Uptown Village evolve during that time. She doesn't think Main Street Marijuana, which is tentatively set to open July 8 with Mayor Tim Leavitt in attendance, fits with the charm of Uptown Village.

"I just don't think that it belongs," she said.

Though Brasure is not alone in her concerns, other business owners on Main Street are welcoming the new shop and say it is the perfect fit.

"It's exciting to me to witness a historical precedent," said Chris Read, owner of Arnada Naturals, which sells vitamins and herbs. "I predict that it will help invigorate the (city's) west side. I'm envisioning young, hip and affluent folks coming from Portland and elsewhere that will really 'get' a natural food store like mine."

Main Street Marijuana is opening in the former Pacific Jewelers building. The store was one of six selected for Vancouver in a lottery conducted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. As one of Clark County's first legal pot shops — if it passes final inspections — it will turn Uptown Village into a testing ground for how the legalization of the drug plays out.

On the whole, businesses in the area are either accepting of the new store or indifferent, said Michael McClafferty, vice president of Uptown Village Association, a member-based organization representing area businesses. The Vancouver Pizza Co. dining room manager is a father of three who lives in the nearby Hough neighborhood and volunteers at low-income schools. While he personally might not like the marijuana store, he says that only a minority of business people are voicing concerns.

The shop first must pass a planned inspection by the liquor control board that's scheduled for today. . Then, manager Ramsey Hamide said, the goal is to be a part of the community. He says the store welcomes input.

"We are definitely open to discussions and will take any suggestions into consideration," he said. "We would welcome people if they have any issues to come and talk to us. Come and talk to me. We really are wanting to be good community partners and we aren't wanting to be dismissive of anybody's concern."

Arlene Bond, owner of Uptown Attic, might be first on that list of concerned business owners.

"I don't like it," she said, standing behind the counter of her antique shop on Tuesday, just a couple doors from the soon-to-be marijuana store, where construction is underway. "I think it's going to put a damper on the family events we have here."

Bond, Brasure and McClafferty all cited concerns about security given the high cash flow and amount of drugs that will be in the store. Hamide said the store is taking top-notch security measures and does not anticipate any problems.

He also said he has heard support from several other people and businesses.

"It seemed overwhelmingly that local businesses are supportive," he said.

Jenna Eckert, owner of Mint Tea, just down the street, is thrilled.

"I think it's a great thing," she said. "I think we should have come out of prohibition a long time ago. Will it be good for Mint Tea? Yeah, it's our vibe. It's our clientele."

Brasure said she felt blindsided and didn't know that this shop was coming to Main Street. She doesn't have a problem with it being located elsewhere, but not in Uptown Village.

"There's more stink about the McDonald's, which I don't want the McDonald's, either," she said of a planned McDonald's to be built nearby at Main Street and Fourth Plain Boulevard. "I don't think either of them belong in quaint, historic downtown Vancouver."

But there's likely little that concerned business owners can do but wait and see what the impact might be.

"This is a reality, this is happening, this is the will of the people of Washington," Hamide said. "The dissenters are the minorities at this point."