Dwayne Madden's "gut" told him in October 2017 that the time was right to open Hemp House, the first store in Chattanooga specializing in the sale of cannabidiol, or CBD, a now-legal derivative of the cannabis plant.
In his second full year, he will pass $1 million in gross sales from the single store, located in North Chattanooga.
A year and a half later, Madden didn't need his instincts to tell him that the time was right to open a Hemp House in East Ridge. His website told him all he needed to know.
"I looked at the website and saw that we have more than 500 customers driving from North Georgia to downtown Chattanooga, so it just made sense to move as close to the Georgia border as possible without going over," he said. "You have to be committed to find our store on Tremont Street if you live in Dalton or Ringgold, and the reason we are here is because we have a customer base in North Georgia committed to us."
Hemp House in East Ridge will open June 1 at 6016 Ringgold Road, next to Marco's Pizza. The location will have 650 square feet of retail space and 1,400 square feet in total. Madden said the business has never had administrative space, which it will put at the East Ridge location. His wife, Kasey, quit her job as a legal assistant three months ago and will be the office manager.
"The business has done well because the product helps people, especially older people," said Madden, who opened a Knoxville store run by a relative earlier this year. "The East Ridge store will carry the same products as the Tremont store — tinctures, oils, topical rubs, edibles."
Cannabidiol oil is extracted from a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. It can be made from both marijuana and industrial hemp plants, but only CBD oil made from industrial hemp is legal in Tennessee. Thus, it does not offer the "high" associated with marijuana, but is purported to have many of the same calming and therapeutic benefits. Hemp House features only products grown and processed in Tennessee, Madden said.
Madden is passionate about the emerging cannabis industry in America — the legal cannabis business. The 36-year-old understands the stigma around anything tied to cannabis, but said he knows it will eventually change.
"I see it every day in the store," Madden said. "When older people visit our store they see it's nothing like what they thought. It's not like a vape store with bongs, pipes and glassware that just happens to sell CBD. The last thing anyone wants to see when they walk into the store is me talking to an older woman with a three-foot bong sitting on the shelf behind her.
"My store is a place where I can take my 12-year-old brother or my grandmother."
Madden said he's investing around $50,000 in the East Ridge location. The store will feature a 35-by-14-foot mural done by Eric Finley Jr., a Chattanooga artist known as "Seven."
One key to the success Madden expects in East Ridge is Exit 1, which he says is not just another interstate exit.
"There is so much new going on around the exit," said Madden, who is also looking for locations around exits in Ooltewah and Cleveland. "There are a lot of people around the exit that are going to give us a look when they find out we are here."
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