Minot, North Dakota — Just getting started in the retail market is going to be tough enough, but Rob Robinson of Minot wants to take it a step farther and open a department store here devoted exclusively to products made from industrial hemp.
The young entrepreneur has already faced some hurdles getting a jump start on the local economy. But, he strongly believes in taking one step at a time and methodically putting a plan together that will net him a cutting-edge retail outlet.
“Yes, I’ve run into some stumbling blocks,” Robinson said. “The market is a young one and investors aren’t always willing to put up money. Serious investors want to see a return on their dollar. I’ve already done research and marketing strategies for investors, found an investor, then he backed out. I will continue my research and far as the store goes, I’ll pull up my bootstraps, put together another prospectus and find the right investors.”
Robinson believes that any number of hemp-related products can be stocked and sold in a local retail outlet. Among the items he expects to handle include clothing, paper products and cosmetic, food and medicinal products. Robinson says he wants to fashion his store after an online store called Planet Hemp.
He expects business would be good for several reasons. First, the products are environmentally friendly, according to Robinson. Second, the food products most often have more nutritional value than products currently on the store shelves and third, the clothing products are often more durable than mass produced clothing.
“Originally, denim was hemp,” Robinson explains. “The original Levis jeans were hemp denim. That’s why they were so popular with the miners. There’s a phrase that applies here. Hemp doesn’t wear out, it wears in.”
Hemp products can be used for nutritional supplements and in skin-care products. The oil can’t be used for cooking because of a low flash point, however, Robinson points out that it makes an excellent salad oil. “You can make anything from hemp oil as you can from soybean oil and it has more nutritional value,” he says.
This kind of store would be a first in North Dakota. There are several stores currently in the state that handle some hemp products, however, none are exclusive. They include ArtMain in Minot, Mill Town Herbs in Jamestown and Hemp & Bead in Fargo.
Across the international boundary in Canada, it’s a completely different picture. All 10 provinces have stores that sell hemp-related products. In fact, the three prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have 65 stores in all including 28 in metropolitan Winnipeg alone. Other communities with hemp stores include Swift Current, Regina and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Medicine Hat, Alberta and Carman and Brandon, Manitoba.
Robinson envisions the same supply and demand situation in the United States if and when federal hemp growing restrictions are eased or lifted.
Would a hemp store be well received in Minot? “Yes, especially with the young people,” Robinson says. “The youth crowd knows about hemp. And their grandparents know the difference between hemp and marijuana because of the Hemp For Victory campaign in World War II. The only problem right now is the parents of the youth.”
Robinson wants to first, educate people on the differences between hemp and marijuana and change the stereotypes that currently exist. He wants to make a profit and he wants to ultimately have people all across North Dakota seek him out for their hemp product needs.
“I think a store with a variety of different products ranging from clothing to consumables will suffice – basically a small independent hemp department store,” Robinson says. “I think it would go well in this community, especially with those who are concerned with the environment and those who want to set a fashion statement.”
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