A Q&A with Dispensary Founder Alicia Wingard
Looking for a unique dispensary to get your next Elyon fix? Look no further than Flora Terra. Located in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park, this dispensary, like many of the neighborhood’s hidden gems, is a bit unassuming on the outside. Walk in, however, and you’ll be hit with not only great customer service but a vibe that feels both laid back and upscale at the same time, a reflection of its wine country setting. Don’t just take it from us, though. We chatted with founder Alicia Wingard about all things Flora Terra. Below she enlightens us on what to expect at the dispensary, why empathy matters and bringing community into the cannabis world.
Elyon: How would you describe the vibe of the dispensary? Being tucked away on a more industrial street, are people surprised when they walk in the door?
Alicia: Where Wine Country meets craft cannabis, Flora Terra offers a friendly yet elevated farm-to-table vibe. Being cultivators ourselves, our vertically-grown indoor farm is on display through a massive 9 foot window. In addition to our fully stocked shelves, it usually blows people’s mind to see four levels of cannabis being grown inside of a dispensary. With our Flora Terra cannabis sold right where it’s harvested, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.
E: I’m guessing you don’t get much foot traffic… How do you attract customers?
A: Surprisingly, an old-school A-frame sign on a busy road attracts a fair amount of foot traffic. How far we’ve come in this new legal world, we also offer coupons on the back of Safeway grocery store receipts at nine different locations in the county. Pairing food purchases with the idea of cannabis has worked out really well for us. Word of mouth goes a long way in this industry, so we’re very grateful for our loyal following and our hardworking staff that provides the level of customer service that keeps people coming back. Google, WeedMaps and social media also help spread the word. You can’t really beat the quality of our products or our prices, so we’ve been able to maintain a very positive reputation in our community.
E: Based on reviews (and my own experience!), customer service seems very important. How many budtenders do you have? Do you generally only hire experienced budtenders or are you willing to train?
A: Thank you for the compliment! I’ll pass it along to our staff. Personality is a huge consideration when hiring a new employee. Just as you would in a fine dining restaurant or wine bar, we truly expect excellence when it comes to customer service. Previous cannabis experience is definitely a helpful perk, but the most important criteria is the ability to relate to people and make authentic connections. Knowledge about the product can be taught, but empathy, optimism, and conscientiousness aren’t easily trained traits. While some of our customers may be cannasseurs, we have others who are new to cannabis and our goal is to offer everyone a comfortable experience.
E: What is the general experience level of the customers? Do they tend more toward the beginner user or cannabis connoisseur?
A: We see, and welcome, all walks of life and levels of experience in our store. For the new-to-cannabis consumer, we strive to create an approachable and educational environment that feels friendly and familiar. We attract a great number of people who often tell us they wouldn’t have even considered stepping into a dispensary until just a short time ago. Cannabis education inspires curiosity, and we have the products and the knowledge to connect the two for those who might benefit from incorporating flowers into their routines. On the flip side, we also have our cannabis aficionados on the hunt for boutique brands and high-end offerings. Knowing we serve both ends of the spectrum, we’re sure to keep an extensive selection of various products.
E: You call yourself a “destination dispensary,” do you tend to have more locals or out of towners?
A: Locals are the lifeline of our business and without them we would not be here! A hot spot for locals, any trip out of the house is a destination these days, especially when you can come check out our ever-growing cannabis nursery. When was the last time you were able to see thousands of cannabis plants while you shopped? It is a sight worth seeing! Many of our regular customers love watching the plant grow, knowing it will end up in a jar they’ll purchase. It’s similar to watching a chef prepare your meal, or touring a vineyard before tasting their wine. It’s art! That being said, we do attract a fair amount of out-of-towners. The word has spread, and everyone wants to take a peek at our cultivation operation.
E: Do you still plan to offer tours of your cultivation area (once, of course, it is safe to do so)?
A: We cannot wait to resume our tour program! Our facility was designed to teach people about the plant and instill the love and respect we have for it. Whenever the world resumes, we will be rolling out a robust tour program for our guests.
E: All of your products are on display and available for customers to grab themselves. This seems pretty unique. How many dispensaries are doing this? How did you decide to set up this way?
A: There are very few dispensaries out there with this open concept model. It does present itself with a unique set of challenges, but customers love it! After touring dispensaries all over California and Nevada, there was only one in San Francisco with a similar set-up and I really enjoyed shopping there. It was memorable. I didn’t feel pressured to purchase but was instead able to browse at my leisure, read labels, and learn about the companies behind the products. The vision of Flora Terra was to create an encouraging environment where customers felt invited to inquire, discover and make connections.
E: What are some fun things to do in your neighborhood…best bars, restaurants, takeout food, etc.
A: In 2020PC (pre-COVID), we loved our local breweries right here in Coffey Park and would often pop in for a beer with the cultivation team after we closed. Moonlight & Cooperage were our favorite and most frequently visited spots. Still trying to support our local businesses as best we can, we order takeout from Mi Tierra and Simply Vietnam pretty regularly.
E: Do you have a favorite Elyon strain?
A: YES!! Blue Dream ALL THE WAY! Call it basic, call it what you will, but it has been a favorite strain of mine since the start of my friendship with cannabis. When a strain is good, a strain is good, and Elyon hits it out of the park with this one! An oldie but a goodie, I look forward to seeing it circle back around.
E: On your website, you put a big emphasis on community. Can you tell me what that means to you?
A: We founded our business with the mission of being community focused and trying to help out where we can. Still a new business with limited funding, we’ve come up with out-of-the-box ideas to give back to the area we love. The very first Christmas we were operational, we hosted a food drive and a toy drive. This year we are collecting donations for our local Redwood Empire Food Bank. Redwood Empire Food Bank is an organization that is always there for our community. During and after every fire, they are ready with food and support to families in need. With many people still out of work and struggling, we’ve been raising money to help fund the food bank’s efforts and we are really excited that we’ve raised nearly $2000! Maybe just a small drop in the bucket, but every donation has a tremendous impact. On top of supporting organizations we believe it, we pride ourselves in creating jobs for local people. The majority of our employees, about 90%, live in Santa Rosa and all of us are Sonoma County residents.
E: Similarly, I know you started the company with your husband. How does being family owned and operated drive your business and your thoughts on cannabis?
A: Starting a business with my husband has been one of our greatest achievements and challenges. The emotions involved in a start-up, especially when navigating the cannabis industry, can bring out the good, the bad and the ugly. Thankfully, we’re a good team. We balance each other out — he is the visionary, and I am the practical one. A successful company needs both roles. Without him and his foresight, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today. Stronger because of this venture, we are still learning and growing as we go!
As for our thoughts on cannabis, we both partake in one form or another almost daily. It is an incredible stress reliever and hands down the best product I have ever used for sleep. We are both big advocates for destigmatizing the use of cannabis and empowering people to make informed decisions about their own personal use. On some level, owning a legitimate business in the industry has opened the doors for us to initiate conversations we may never have otherwise started with family, friends and colleagues.
To The Elyon Team: Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat about our business. Your Team and Brand are part of something truly special. You are pioneers in this industry and we greatly appreciate your steadfast support.
Wine country who? This is cannabis country! Thank you, Alicia. We can’t wait to visit Flora Terra!
Join The Most High!
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.