East Rip is the peninsula’s newest recreational marijuana retailer, and the first cannabis business located in Kenai’s compact commercial center.
Ryan Tunseth has been working to get East Rip set up for nearly a year, and has had his share of hiccups over the location and nature of the business. When East Rip was working on getting a permit from the city, there was some controversy surrounding the proposed location of East Rip, which is adjacent to Arby’s in central Kenai. In Dec. 2017, the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission narrowly approved East Rip’s city permit after the commission reconsidered their November 2017 denial of the permit. The shop received their permits from the state earlier this summer, and East Rip was able to have a soft opening the second week of September.
Q: What made you want to get into this industry?
A: Personally, I was going through a bit of a life change. I was working at Exxon Mobil when there was a shakeup with my Cook Inlet job. Exxon wanted to move us to Texas. I didn’t want to uproot my family. My kids like it here. I grew up here and have lived here my whole life. My dad lives here. We love it here. So, we decided to stay. My wife and I tossed around a few business ideas that might pay the bills and this one just stuck.
Q: With a density of churches, playgrounds, schools and parks in central Kenai, it is difficult to find a spot to open this sort of business. How has this location been working for you since opening?
A: The location is great. It’s something we feel is one our biggest assets. We are on a frontage road, and we like that it’s not right on the highway. People can access the store discretely. We’re a little bit removed, which was something we were looking for.
Q: Cannabis is a booming industry; how has business been for East Rip since first opening?
A: Business is great. We came in and opened and there was a lot of momentum. Then we were on the heels of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Sales have been great, but we’ve been seeing this momentum from opening and from the PFD. I think it will get slower and steadier in the winter. It’s been better than expected.
Q: How have you been promoting your new business?
A: We’ve gone with the sort of grassroots marketing strategy through word of mouth. We have one radio commercial right now, but we had no advertisements for the first two weeks. We were focused on knocking our customer service out of the park.
Q: How much locally grown product does East Rip carry?
A: Pretty much everything on the menu is locally grown on the peninsula, whether it’s from K-Beach or Nikiski, it’s almost all locally grown.