Perched on Capitol Hill’s western slope, The Reef brings pot to E Olive Way

Bud, oils and pre-rolled joints were everywhere as The Reef, Capitol Hill’s newest cannabis retailer, opened the doors to its new location for a preview Thursday night.

With its first shop opened in Bremerton three years ago, The Reef’s new storefront takes full advantage of its perch on Capitol Hill at a busy intersection where its predecessor pizza joint and its notorious flashing sign served as a de facto western gate to the neighborhood. With generous amounts of light coming in through windows spanning the width of the storefront, the new location will give Capitol Hill residents a convenient option for their cannabis-related needs.

John Ueding, general manager of The Reef’s Capitol Hill location, explained that the company wants to invest in the community and explore options to work with and support local charity organizations.

“The owners are intent on giving back as much as we can,” Ueding said. “Being local Seattle guys, we really want to be involved in the community.”

In April, CHS reported on The Reef’s victory in the race to be the first retail marijuana shop approved by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board for E Olive Way. It was no small feat. The company had to beat out the experienced team behind Uncle Ike’s and a third competitor that has since dropped out of contention on the street.

The Reef is owned by a company belonging to real estate investor Adam Simon, according to state corporation records. Simon and Aaron Bennett purchased the building home to The Reef for $1.4 million in June 2017.

Ueding said that the company aims to destigmatize the cannabis retail business as recreational use is legalized in an increasing number of states and the industry has rapidly expanded.

“Cannabis is fresh out of prohibition…The industry is so young, it’s just ripe with opportunity,” he said. “There’s still this stigma to it. It’s important to do what we can to erase that.”

Capitol Hill’s legal pot scene, up until now, has been focused on 15th Ave E where Uncle Ike’s, Seattle’s largest pot purveyor, and the city’s oldest shoe cobbler made their improbable double-header debut in the neighborhood in October of 2016. Across-the-street competitor Ruckus beat Ike to the punch when it “defiantly” opened on E Republican in December 2015.

The Reef’s turf is new pot ground in Seattle, a stretch of E Olive Way on the western edge of Capitol Hill where a confluence of federal, state, and city regulations resulted in a peculiar land rush. Seattle regulations surrounding pot stores require the minimum distance the stores must maintain from places like parks and libraries be at least 500 feet and dictate that two stores can open near each other, but a third must be at least 1,000 feet away.

The changes set a real estate rush into motion. The Reef’s building sold for $1.4 million in June 2017. In September of that year, Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg paid more than $2 million for the former law offices next to the Crescent. Real estate investment firm Teutsch Partners then snapped up the building home to Pie Bar, and the Speckled and Drake bar for a whopping $4.3 million but, with The Bakeree’s withdrawal, that building won’t immediately be part of the pot boom.

The Reef’s new home is the building formerly host to Amante Pizza but it’s nearly unrecognizable after a redesign of the interior by architects Olson Kundig. Amante closed earlier this year and now offers delivery only. The relatively low price, no frills pizza joint and bar apparently took its flashing sign along with it.

The Reef’s look and feel is modern and bright. Its opening announcement played up the shop’s technology-forward approach to pot and the store’s location on “Capitol Hill’s Amazon Slope.” It will launch featuring Leafly Pickup, “which allows customers to create an order, receive real-time text updates and skip the line at the store.”

Competition on E Olive Way is coming. The Hempfest opening puts The Reef well in front of the coming project from Eisenberg and Uncle Ike’s that was approved for a retail license in July. Uncle Ike’s will be playing catch-up — its construction permits were only approved this week. So far the race to open on the street has been drama free in comparison with the modern day cannabis soap opera surrounding the openings on 15th Ave E. But there could be drama to come.

The Reef hopes to rise above. The shop wants customers to focus less on THC content and the types of strains of cannabis, and more on the effect it has on one’s physical and emotional well-being along with what kind of experience they’re looking to get out of using it.

“We are trying to stay really on the front edge of the wave, so to speak,” Ueding said. “Competitors churn and burn. We really want to compete on the opposite side of that. We’re focusing on where cannabis research is going, more than anything.”

The Reef’s Capitol Hill location officially opens on Friday just in time for Hempfest but there will be a grand opening next Friday. UPDATE: The shop is slated to open for business Friday night. Sorry for any early day disappointment.

With a selection of cannabis products including marijuana buds, edibles, infused teas and pre-rolled joints, neighbors who partake will likely find what they want within walking distance.

The Reef is located at 1525 E Olive Way. It is open daily 8:30 AM to 10:00 PM. You can learn more at thereefstores.com.


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18 thoughts on “Perched on Capitol Hill’s western slope, The Reef brings pot to E Olive Way

  1. I’ll be going today to check out their layout. I understand there are thousands of SKUs in the pot shop business, but honestly not a single store has gotten the customer experience right. I want to say Have a Heart in Belltown has it the closest, it’s just so busy.

    Shopping for weed should be a very interactive experience. At Ikes and other stores I stand 5 feet away from a dizzying supply of product hung on a wall or in a glass case and I either need to tell the employee exactly what I want or “hey what have you been liking lately?”.

    There needs to be a better experience than this. I want to find the best buds in a batch, I want to look through all your concentrates (doesn’t have to be hands on, I understand the difficulty), I want to read packages for more than a minute.

    I hate feeling like I’m making someone’s day harder by asking questions. I hate feeling like I’m holding up an out-the-door line. I love my buds and I like to have a fun time shopping for them, seeing new products, really taking in what I’m spending my money on.

    Given the small size, I hope The Reef has a different process than others have tried. Let’s see.

    • Exactly what you’ve said is what we’ve set out to do. I’d love your constructive feedback and suggestions after your first foray there. Grab my card at the shop. Thanks! Adam.

    • I can’t imagine a better way to aggravate your neighborhood customers. I’d bet not even Amazon employees would say that, or look kindly on it. What’s next— calling South Lake Union “Amazon Gulch”?

      • As an Amazon employee I can confirm “Amazon Slope” was never part of my vernacular. Also not interested in that term catching any traction.

    • “Word is”? “We” don’t need this? Who’s “we”, you signing my checks now? Nice drive-by character assasination.

      Hopefully people are grown-up enough to form their own opinions, based on service, product, and maybe community involvement.

  2. Just for future reference, feel free to use the Gregorian calendar when you’re telling us dates (e.g. when the this store actually opens) as opposed to the Hempfest calendar. Thanks.

  3. Walked by earlier today and noticed that this is one of those stores (there are others) where the doorman photographs the ID of everyone who enters. If the owners feel this is necessary given pot’s still-tenuous legality I won’t argue, but it does mean I will not be stopping in anytime soon. I don’t care how many “safeguards” are presumably in place, the potential for abuse of this kind of detailed personal info is just too high. (Criticize Ike’s all you want, but at least they don’t do this.)

  4. Sorry, I don’t want someone taking pictures of my license, especially at a cannabis shop My bank account has been hacked by using a debit card at a nationwide grocery before. I’ve never seen this before and the man was very rude when I objected.

  5. I hope this alleviates some of the stoner pressure up on 15th. Even as a stoner, there are times when I’m like “Stoners, please get it together!” Weed packaging trash on the sidewalk, confused weed tourists, folks laying in the street (well, more than the usual folks laying in their usual spots, I mean). Hopefully a few more weed shops on the hill will spread the business around a bit more.

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