YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Three years ago, Boardman native Brian Kessler, who now lives in California, announced plans to grow marijuana for medical purposes in a warehouse on Crescent Street, north of downtown Youngstown.
Since then, Riviera Creek Holdings has come a long way and is even ready to announce some new products.
In Nov. 2017, the company was granted its medical marijuana cultivator license. Over a year later, it finally harvested the first of its five crops in Feb. 2019.
Kessler, chairman of the Riviera Creek Board, said they’ve learned a lot through their first year of business.
“When we first started, the biggest problem was there were very few patients, there were no stores,” Kessler said.
During the state’s first year with medical marijuana, for most of that time, only 12 stores were selling it. Now, there are 47, most of which opened in the last half of the year.
So, most of Riviera Creek’s business occurred in November and December of 2019.
About 80,000 patients signed up, which was what Kessler predicted, and he’s hoping for 150,000 by year’s end.
The number of employees at Riviera Creek increased from 12 to 25, a number Kessler hopes will eventually be 100.
“We are considered the premier product in the market. We have been successful in getting people to be happy with working and receiving the product we deliver,” he said.
Riviera Creek’s secret growing process has been modified to a point where a crop about ready to be harvested is almost all buds, which is the part that’s sold.
“They are about five times the density of what we grew last year,” Kessler said. “It produces more cannabis, higher quality, more yield.”
Kessler said he’s thrilled with how the modifications are producing increased yields with more usable crop, and they’ve sold it all.
To make people even happier, Kessler said they’re working on two new products.
“We did hear some noise about our bags,” he said.
Riviera Creek used to ship in bags that would sometimes flatten the marijuana. So, they designed a bigger bag, inside of which is what Kessler calls a “bud box.”
“When you open it, [it’s] your cannabis — well protected, nice storage area, nice airtight seal,” he said.
Riviera Creek is now also offering its marijuana in an oil form through a vape pen, which comes packaged in the bud box as well. Vape pens are not new, they’re just new to Riviera Creek.
Kessler said Riviera Creek is also working on a new vaping method, which he hopes to announce later this summer.
So, after all of this, did the company make money last year?
“We did not. It was first year. I don’t know of anybody that made money first year, especially where nine months of the year there was only 12 stores open,” he said.
Kessler also talked about legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes in Ohio. He does not see it happening this year but if it does happen, he’d want it legalized through the political process because a ballot issue like the one tried a few years ago, he thinks, probably won’t work.