Exclusive Interview with Takoma Wellness Center Founders and Owners Stephanie Kahn and Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn
Takoma Wellness Center is a mom and pop dispensary in Washington, D.C., owned and operated by founders Stephanie Kahn and Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn for the past seven years. They spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about the evolution of the Washington, D.C., cannabis market and their dispensary and the likely launch of an adult-use program.
A Personal Mission
Both Stephanie and her husband had completely different careers before deciding to open Takoma Wellness Center. She spent decades working as a psych nurse and then worked in regulatory compliance with hospitals. He was a congregational rabbi for 30 years, serving congregations in Australia and the United States.
The married couple saw how helpful medical cannabis could be through Stephanie’s parents: Jules and Libby Reifkind. Her father used cannabis to help manage the symptoms of MS. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, her physician recommended cannabis to help with her appetite, but the family was unable to get her any.
Today, a picture from Stephanie’s parents’ honeymoon hangs on the wall in Takoma Wellness Center, and the family keeps their personal mission at the center of the dispensary’s operations.
Stephanie and Rabbi Jeffrey are joined in the business by their son Joshua Kahn, who serves as COO. General Manager Charles Newsome, recently promoted, is also an important part of the Takoma Wellness Center team, which has a total of 35 employees.
The Washington, D.C. Cannabis Market
Washington, D.C.’s, medical cannabis program was initially voted in during 1998, but it was blocked by Congress from coming online until 2010, according to Rabbi Kahn. The market started out very small and highly regulated. Cultivators could only grow a small number of plants, patients need to establish a months-long relationship with a physician and then pick a single dispensary, and the program included very few qualifying conditions.
Since then, the market in the country’s smallest jurisdiction has grown significantly. There are now eight cultivation centers, which are no longer restricted on how much they can grow, and seven dispensaries, according to Rabbi Kahn. The program also increased the amount of cannabis patients can purchase, and healthcare providers can recommend patients use cannabis for any reason.
Over the years, cannabis advocates have worked to expand who Washington, D.C., dispensaries can serve. Now, dispensaries are able to accept medical cards from any state and Puerto Rico with a medical program.
Adult-use legislation did pass in Washington, D.C. in 2014, but commercial sales are not yet allowed. The Kahns expect that to change in the near future, and they are preparing for that opportunity.
Takoma Wellness Center Operations
Even without adult-use, Takoma Wellness Center is very busy. The dispensary sees 200 to 300 patients per day. Typically, it takes on 25 new patients each day, according to Stephanie. They are busy enough in Washington, D.C., that they are not currently considering any other markets. Rather, they are focused on building strong patient relationships through their current operations.
In a market as small as Washington, D.C., Takoma Wellness Center is dedicated to stocking its shelves with everything that the market’s cultivators produce. This was initially so important because patients were required to register with a single dispensary, and Takoma Wellness Center wanted to make sure its patients weren’t missing anything that was available at another dispensary. Now that the company serves patients from all over Washington, D.C., and the country, it still strives to keep its shelves stocked with that wide range of offerings, including flower, cartridges, tinctures, concentrates and edibles. The dispensary is also always careful to keep its online menu accurate and up-to-date.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dispensary has shifted its check-in process outdoors and implemented social distancing measures inside. Patients are able to order online and opt for curbside pickup. Takoma Wellness Center has regulatory permission for home delivery as well as curbside. It has plans to grow those two parts of its business in the future.
Planning for Adult-Use
Thus far, the Department of Health has been the regulatory body in charge of the Washington, D.C., cannabis market, but that is set to change. This fall, the board in charge of alcohol industry regulation will take on cannabis. The Kahns expect to be able to move into the recreational market this year as well.
With its long history in the market, the Kahns are hoping Takoma Wellness Center will be able to take advantage of new opportunities, such as advanced applications for cultivation and processing. The company is aiming to offer recreational products in its own dispensary, as well as other locations in Washington, D.C.
The Kahns have largely self-funded Takoma Wellness Center, with help from a small group of family and friends in the beginning. But, now with the opportunity of adult-use operations on the horizon, the dispensary will likely need to seek external funding.
Every year since Takoma Wellness Center has opened as been a growth year. This year, the dispensary has seen approximately 25 percent growth.
As the company grows, the Kahns monitor a number of different metrics ranging from product sales to patient satisfaction, according to Stephanie. She and Jeffrey credit their personal mission and focus on patient relationships as a key growth driver. Whether through social media or word of mouth, Takoma Wellness Center has earned a good reputation.
Maintaining that personal touch is naturally a challenge as the company grows. While the Kahns cannot be in the shop nearly as often and transaction times must be limited due to the pandemic, they are relying on quality staff members to keep that personal mission at the forefront of operations. Takoma Wellness Center pays significantly above minimum wage, and last year, it was able to begin offering benefits to its staff, according to Stephanie.
While getting that knowledgeable, quality staff and enough product remains a challenge, Takoma Wellness Center is constantly working to make those areas differentiators. Now, the company is gearing up to see how it can use its track record to serve a whole new customer base with the onset of adult-use sales.
To learn more, visit the Takoma Wellness Center website. Listen to the entire interview: