|Photo: Jared Hamilton/The Saginaw News|
|Keith Beyerlein, left, and Christopher Krieger, both of Reese, Mich., are the owners of GrowMart, a new hydroponic indoor growing store. The store’s merchandise could be used to grow any plant indoors, but they said 85 percent of their sales are to people who grow marijuana.|
Getting their first retail business off the ground in Saginaw, Michigan’s untapped medical marijuana market made sense to two 20-something entrepreneurs from Reese.
High school buddies Keith Beyerlein, 25, who graduated from Reese High School in 2003, and Christopher Krieger, 28, a 2001 graduate, opened their new hydroponics business, GrowMart, in Saginaw in mid-July, reports Gus Burns of The Saginaw News.
The business partners are quick to point out that their store doesn’t sell marijuana or paraphernalia.
Michigan’s medical marijuana industry is expected to surpass $2 billion per year, Beyerlein said, and it didn’t take him long to convince friend and fellow investor, Krieger, that it was smart industry to enter.
“Medical marijuana is going to help every aspect of the economy,” Beyerlein said. “Money’s going to start flowing. Electricians (who wire growing operations) are going to go to work; it’s going to create a lot of jobs, not just the growers but the people to sustain the growers.”
The shop has filters, piping, reflectors, ballasts, bulbs and soil, on its shelves, along with all the rest of the equipment required for an indoor growing system.
Start-up systems can cost nearly $7,000, according to Beyerlein.
Nothing in the store promotes cannabis growth or the associated subculture. That means no tie-dye, no “tobacco pipes” and no incense.
The equipment he sells could be used just as easily to grow tomatoes, but Krieger still isn’t shy about identifying his target market.
“Over 85 percent of our sales are to medical marijuana patients and caretakers,” Krieger said. And that was the plan.
“During the Gold Rush, people made their money selling pick-axes and jeans,” Beyerlein said. “This is it right now. This is the market to be in.”
Beyerlein and Krieger said they aren’t concerned that GrowMart is catering to a clientele that some people associated with “drug addiction.”
They also say that perception is the farthest thing from the truth.
Last week, a 23-year-old woman came in with her boyfriend and wanted to grow marijuana in preparation for the extensive chemotherapy cancer treatment she was about to undergo, Krieger said.
Beyerlein described another customer, a retired Delphi Corp. employee who had just lost his wife, had his pension halved and most of his retirement benefits taken away, who was looking for something he could do to occupy his time while making a few dollars.
Michigan’s medical marijuana law says that a registered primary caregiver may receive compensation for costs associated with helping a registered qualifying patient in the medical use of marijuana. Any such compensation does not constitute the sale of controlled substances, according to Michigan law.
“The older generation was taught the stuff was the devil, but really it’s safer than aspirin,” Beyerlein said. “I believe there are two people that are against it: One, people that are uninformed, or drug dealers who don’t want their market to disappear.”
Krieger and Beyerlein said they haven’t had any conflicts with local government, despite talk earlier this year of a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana-related businesses in the city, an idea that Saginaw city officials discarded after citizens voiced displeasure.
Both owners said some potential customers remain out of reach because of widespread fear about what the government might do.
And many others who do actually enter the store do so with hesitation, they said.
“They’re fearful to go get their medicine,” Beyerlein said. “I don’t think people should have to feel nervous about getting something that benefits their health.”