June 23, 2023

Dabbler Depot THC (Season 5 Episode 22)

Stephanie [00:00:13]:

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the makers of Minnesota Podcast. I’m Stephanie Hansen, and we are talking to a cool person who’s doing a cool thing, who seems to always be on the cutting edge. We’re talking to Matt Kennevin. He is the owner of the Dabblers that are around town, the Beer Dabblers. And he’s also the owner of the Dabbler Depot, which is on west 7th street in St. Paul, which is a coffee shop and a liquor store that specializes and has a huge giant beer cooler. But you are also matt going to be introducing many of the folks in the Twin Cities, assuming the legalities work out to THC. Tell us about how you’re expanding into these THC stores and what are they called and where are they?

Matt [00:01:03]:

What a time to be alive.

Stephanie [00:01:05]:

I know. And you’re always like, well, you and I have known each other for a super long time. You’re like one of the hardest working, most generous men I know. That’s extremely unassuming, right? I tried to hire you like at least 15 times, I think, because I just thought you were such a great salesperson and you’ve turned this whole Dabbler concept into retail. You’ve helped break a lot of beers by having the Dabbler events where you’re introducing people to products and now you’re on the front end of THC.

Matt [00:01:37]:

Yeah, it’s been a wild 14 years of being a business owner. I have a lot of businesses currently, but I’ve had some that are no longer. And who would ever thought that this would have been my career path? But here we are. And I’m excited about it. The legalization I’m not so sure I’m excited about that because we don’t know how it’s going to roll out. And right now it’s like a big giant roulette wheel. And wherever it stops, it stops. And that could be incredibly great for people, or it could literally end the business instantly and put a handful of people out of work. So that’s what’s a little scary about the next few weeks. We’ll learn our fate and see how it shakes up. But you know me and just break it down a little bit for your viewers here. I try to do things that other people aren’t doing or do it differently than them. And when the pandemic hit, I started a liquor store. And you’re like, well, what’s different about that liquor store? Well, it’s the only liquor store in Minnesota that probably has a tap wall on there for tasting. So you come in and it’s a hands on experience. If you’re going to try something, there’s a really good chance that I’ve got it a bottle open or whatnot. But we’re going to give you some great recommendations. But some of the unique things about the store itself is we’ve got a content studio in there, so we do podcasts. One of the podcasts is Black Brewers podcast that comes in every Tuesday and they record there. But we also have full video production, editing all the equipment to create a different way of learning and understanding some of these products that we’re featuring full photography studio. And it’s such a cool place that I’m pretty proud that it doesn’t look like every other liquor store in the planet when I started that. Other folks are like, oh, you got to do this and you got to do that. And I just plugged my ears and I’m like, I’m going to do it different, so I’m going to do it like I want everything from buying shelves. The folks are like, oh, this is what you got to do to have the proper display. And we’re like, nah, I’m not going to do that. We don’t have starbursts all over the place. It says Sale 999. No, that’s not what we’re doing. One of the cool other features of the store is a 40 foot plant wall. And I know plant walls aren’t that groundbreaking anymore, but we have the condensation from the cooler gets drained into the basement into a 55 gallon drum, and then I pump it back up to the plant wall. And the plant wall gets fed by my cooler and installed solar on the roof. So my solar is running the cooler, the cooler is running the plants and so on and so forth. And it’s just like that’s the kind of thinking that we like to bring to the table that shows us different. All over the country, there’s people that are hungry for water and they don’t have water, right? And one thing that non industry people don’t know is there’s so much water waste. Like in the coffee shop. Think of how many coffee shops are in California or the West Coast where so many people are starved with water that you have to have this thing called a dripper well on and it literally runs nonstop and you’re just wasting that water down the drain. And we’re hungry for water, we need water. But we’re making these poor choices. So it’s time to rethink how we’re doing things. And even though we don’t have a water shortage here in the Midwest, we could someday.

Stephanie [00:06:11]:

And to think if you have the ability to do the right thing and you know it, then you do it right because you do it because it’s the right thing to do. Just like a million other choices that you make as a business owner. One thing that I think is really cool about you is you take this industry of beer and there’s a million different types of beer and styles and flavor profiles. And then you make a content studio, and you put the beer in this content studio because you allow other people that are experiencing beer and trying to educate about it and trying to create unique and different products a way to access that through this content studio and also become a resource for them. You did that, too, with the Dabblers, where you brought all these people together, and you didn’t just have a beer festival. You really had the capacity to have a large profile event where people could take time and people could spend time and yeah, sure, you can go to any beer festival and get drunk and go home, if that’s your thing. But also allowing all of these people to come together. Also they learn about each other and they meet each other and they cross pollinate and create different products and push the whole industry forward. You had the growler, so you had the magazine that was talking about all the beer products, but you’ve really done some groundbreaking things. You must feel pretty cool about your career.

Matt [00:07:48]:

Thank you. I do. I feel great about the accomplishments. I also every day I wake up and I’ll see somebody else that is just a bonehead, and they’ll have some wild success and they’ll be rich off something stupid. And I’m like, what am I doing wrong? Why am I working so hard? And everything I do is just I feel like it’s just to catch up. I wish I was getting rich off it, but the reality is it’s not easy. And I’m okay with that. I don’t know. When I’m working, when I’m not working, I think that’s what makes it the most amazing part of my career is I wake up and I’m doing what I want to do, and that’s cool. And if you don’t have that, I urge everybody to try to find that because it’s there, but it’s not easy. So that’s what I would say about that.

Stephanie [00:08:49]:

So this podcast is going to come out in June, so let’s just assume that the legalization of marijuana is going to happen, that Governor Walls is going to sign this bill, and you’re going to be in a position where you’re going to be one of the first people to have one of these stores right. Where you’re going to be able to bring these THC products together. What is that going to look like for the consumer? Because I already know you’re going to do it differently. Right now. You go to find a seltzer or to find a bag of gummies, you’re basically kind of sneaking in someone’s creepy, not very well lit back door, and it just doesn’t feel like a great experience. It still feels very clandestined.

Matt [00:09:40]:

Yeah. First and foremost, what I would say is, sorry if anybody owns a smoke shop out there, but that’s sketchy stuff. I’m not taking a dig. I’m not trying to take a dig on them, but a lot of these shops out there are selling products that are not tested or they’re not tried. There’s not a lot of thought in them. Why they’re carrying them. That’s the opposite, what we’re doing. My stores, they’re already open. I’ve got one in south Minneapolis. I’ve got one on west 7th street in St. Paul. And then I’ve got one in uptown.

Stephanie [00:10:17]:

What are you calling them?

Matt [00:10:19]:

Dabbler Depot. THC.

Stephanie [00:10:21]:


Matt [00:10:22]:

We’re focusing a lot on the seltzer parts. It’s the same thing. Most breweries are making these products, and we’re bringing them in, and hands down, our selection is easily the biggest in Minnesota, if not the Midwest, of any type of place like this. So when this gets legalized, I’m still not going to I shouldn’t say never, but I’m most likely not going to be a full blown dispensary. My customers are not the customers who are going to go roll a joint and smoke it wherever they’re going to smoke it. My customers are part of my expression, but middle aged soccer mom or dads. And then it goes up to people who truly have medical issues that are needing something that they can’t get out of regular medicine. And right now we’re focusing on a media event that is going to take place in the next couple of weeks. And in there, we’re going to make a video of ten or so people of why they’re taking it. This past weekend, my mom well, the weekend before, was in for Mother’s Day, and she has a friend who she’s traveling to Banff this summer with, and she’s got Parkinson’s. And unfortunately, it’s catching up to her and she’s starting with the tremors and some of the other things that her body is not necessarily she’s in pain a lot, and it’s not great. And like, hey, mom, come into the store, try some of these products out, bring them back for your friend and see how it works. So it’s not a dirty little hidden secret that we’re doing what it is. We’re, in theory, helping people. I can’t say that’s going to help my mom’s friend, but it might. And the stories that I hear when folks come in to buy our products, it’s very rewarding as a business owner, to hear that you’re really helping people out. Our employees is beyond knowledgeable on these products. They’re great humans, and they actually care. Why are you taking these products? Oh, you can’t sleep? You have anxiety? Okay, maybe we’re going to have less THC and more CBD in the product. So there’s so many different reasons why people take this. The least popular decision is just so I can get high. Yes, there are people that are taking it just to get high, but I would say that’s not the majority of who my customer is. And I think think about, am I a bad person for doing this? And I questioned that for a minute until we started to find these stories and why people are taking. And it’s really cool. People need this. And especially after the pandemic, where it’s not just affected the pandemic, meaning affected businesses, it’s affected humans. And it’s affected humans in so many different ways. Where right now, drinking, drinking is down. And more and more I look at my NA section and I watch people come in and they’re like it blows my mind how much NA product that we sell and how many people are coming in for the THC where my kid goes to private school. And these are classmates, moms and dads that are coming in. And it’s amazing how they’re curious. Never have done it, don’t know anything about it because in their brains, smoking joints are a dirty thing, or smoking a bowl is a dirty thing. And those people are never going to do that. So a gummy when they’re home, cool. They love that. Or these seltzers, it’s fun to just try all the different kinds of products that are out there. It’s not a boring drink that you’re having.

Stephanie [00:15:12]:

So I have some kind of just usage questions because I’m of the age that Nancy Reagan said, Just say no. And I did.

Matt [00:15:23]:

We have a scene for that. It’s called just say yo.

Stephanie [00:15:28]:

Okay, so let’s just say yo. And you are one of the few people in my life, my daughter’s, probably the other, that I would like. If you said, hey, try this. This is how it’s going to work. This is how it might affect you. Sometime I’m going to do this. But I haven’t yet because I’m nervous and I’m anxious and I’m not a big pot smoker. And you’re right. Have I smoked a joint? I’ve probably had a puff up a joint like five times in my life and it was like, man, this isn’t so great. But I am curious about THC. And I do think that as a society, during the pandemic, we all drank a lot. A lot of people drank a lot. And it feels like trying to come off of that and try to have a more healthier lifestyle that this is moving into that space for a lot of people, like where you still want to take the edge off or maybe you’re having anxiety or trouble sleeping. My husband has a weird food allergy, and sometimes gummies are the only thing that will get him to sleep. And sleep is so important, so he’ll risk trying different ones just because he’s trying to get to sleep, because he hasn’t slept for three days. I imagine you have a lot of people that are in this category, and how do you get them to try it for the first time?

Matt [00:16:44]:

Yeah, for starts, I am a person that will take either a gummy or a seltzer once a day. And it’s normally right before bed. Sometimes it’s a little sooner before bed. If I’m at home, I’m going to be out in public and going to be high kind of person, mainly because I got to be on my game all the time when I’m out there and I take it because I have a pinched nerve in my neck. And there’s been no relief for me in the eight years I’ve been chasing how to fix this problem. And I’ve tried things from dry, needling to you name it, I’ve done it. And the only thing that worked for me is taking for Advil two times a day, sometimes three times a day, which I know is too many, but I needed this. What have I done? Is switch to considerably less Advil. And I’m taking these gummies or seltzer before I go to bed. And it’s ultimately helping me just like, quietly sleep without tossing and turning and being like, I can’t sleep on this shoulder for too long or this shoulder for too long because I’m wearing out. It hurts. My body hurts. And so it’s ultimately helping me just have a quiet, restless and non restless night of sleep. And that makes my day considerably better. That’s why I’m taking it as far as you, you’re probably similar. Well, why I don’t do it during the day is because I also have anxiety when I’m high. I’ve smoked many times in my life, but once I smoke, we’ll be at a music festival or something and I’ll say, all right, guys. They’ll peer pressure me into smoking, but the second I smoke, I let them know I’m like, I’m going to disappear and I’m going to go into my tent and I’m going to forget about it because my brain is wandering so many different things. That’s not necessary for me. For me, I don’t need a massively high dose. And there are some people that need massively high doses, right? But I’m not one of them. And I can be like, good to go off of five milligrams all day long in gummies. Sometimes I even do like two and a half. It’s not about the high for me. So everybody’s a little bit different. When you talk with my folks, they’re going to be like, all right, what’s the thing? And then there’s, like CBD. CBG. CBN. CBO. These are all different things that bring different experiences to you. And when you tell my people, this is what I’m shooting for, they’re going to fit you like a shoe. They’re going to try to say, all right, let’s start you with this or this dose or this kind of line. And so there’s a lot more to it. And one of the things it could be intimidating for folks to like, what’s CBG? What’s CBN? What’s CB? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. In my opinion, this product should be sold by people who give a hoot about the product. It’s probably unpopular with my brewery friends, but I don’t think breweries should be selling these for onsite consumption because there’s so many new players to the game. Where there’s one story that I’ve heard, and it was from a buddy of mine who is with one of the Parks departments, and he and his wife went to a brewery and she’s like, oh, I want to try this. All the buzz about this. So she gets a can and it was to go and they went to their son’s basketball game and the dad coached and she was sitting in the stands and after the first game he came up and was like, well, what do you think? Because she drank it in the stands and she’s like, nothing happened. I don’t know. Weird, nothing happened. Well, he goes down, next game hits, comes back up and he’s like, how are you doing? You don’t really look the same. And she’s like, I can’t walk. And she was just like she could not walk because she was in the bleachers and scared of falling. And the reality was she took too high of a dose. And that’s what happens if somebody who is selling. This isn’t like having a consultation. To me, what we’re doing is we are going to consult you and we are going to get you into the right product. And if one product, it isn’t perfect for you, give some feedback on that. We could try another product until you find out your needs. It’s not one for all.

Stephanie [00:22:25]:

Yeah. The education piece of this is so massive and I don’t know that people really have thought about it in the way that just like the education piece with alcohol is very different. I don’t know, I actually pay attention to when I’m drinking a beer, how much alcohol percentage is in it because I know that I can have two 5.5% or less beers and drive home and be okay. But if I tip that scale or I have some special beer that’s 10% no good. I need to know what I’m doing and be in control. And these products are very similar and also they’re not regulated at this point and they’re hopefully with regulation. That is the one thing I think will be good is if it says 5% on a package, it’s going to be 5% versus right now it’s kind of all over the board.

Matt [00:23:26]:

Well, I think all products need to actually get an analysis and that analysis is probably pretty good from the start. But what’s happening is there’s some rumors of the can lining having some absorption with the product and then the label says it’s five milligrams, but it’s been sitting in there for two months and now it’s three milligrams or two milligrams. And I think there’s always ways to go to figure some of this stuff out, to catch up to some of the other markets who for a long time my kid’s eleven and I literally am scared for him every day for the future. The drugs that are out there are a buddy of mine works at a Hazel team and and he’s like, there’s no more alcoholics anymore. People aren’t coming in for alcohol addiction. They’re coming in because they’re hooked on harder, massive bad drugs for you. And these drugs are being disguised in anything from hot that you’re buying off the street. They’re laced with other things and it’s not what it used to be when you and I were growing up in life, it’s like, yeah, there’s two kinds of weed. There was ditchweed, which is bad stuff, and then there’s the kind bud, and it was not what kind of kind bud, it was like, it’s just kind bud. And then it’s just ditch weed. And those are the days where you could smoke a whole bowl and you’re like, I’m not high yet, let’s do it again. And then you smoke another bowl. Well, nowadays you take a hit of weed, one hit of weed, and you might be so stoned out of your mind, you don’t know what day it is. And then on top of that, some of these drugs are just laced with other drugs and you don’t know.

Stephanie [00:25:44]:

It is troubling. It is nerve wracking. It’s troubling. Someone in my sphere is a younger person and occasionally goes out, and cocaine is apparently making a resurgence. And this person is so afraid that someone’s going to buy cocaine from the wrong person and it’s going to have fentanyl in it. And the casual use that we used to see in the 80s, as it were, as a party drug, is now going to become a casualty drug.

Matt [00:26:17]:

Yeah, nerve wracking. I heard literally last week that same thing, cocaine. They’re so scared, they carry test strips with them when they’re buying it. Then they test it for fentanyl, because fentanyl is the drug specifically that I’m seeing is just everywhere in different forms. I was at a food hall last week and it’s that new one on Nicolette Cross. I forget the name, but it’s street crossing. Yeah, it’s such a wonderful place. I mean, it is an absolute wonderful place and wildly busy and it’s successful. But then you walk outside of those doors and you see Kmart and you’re like, what on earth is going on? And it’s like zombieland. And unfortunately, it is a different world that we’re living in. All these people are so jacked up on the fentanyl, you can take a normal person and then all of a sudden turn them into a zombie in no time.

Stephanie [00:27:34]:

It’s interesting, too. I think we’re starting to get a different viewpoint about addiction. There tends to be a lot of shame and stigma about it. And particularly when you were dealing with alcoholics, there was this notion of tough love, and that tough love was the way that you would parent through that to get your kid to hit rock bottom and go to treatment. Now with the different types of drugs and not just alcohol, but people that you’re physiologically, literally addicted in your brain, and tough love isn’t really going to make a difference because you can’t even make those choices. We’re seeing a different type of treatment. We’re seeing less stigma about it. We’re seeing parents that have narcan in their homes, people that are more interested in keeping their loved ones alive to hopefully keep them alive long enough so that they get to the point where they can stop or they want to stop, or they will stop. Because it’s just such a tragedy that some of these people and we’ll use Prince as an example, a man who started out with pain from hip replacements or whatever, and all of a sudden, over the course of time, has graduated to smoking these patches. And people are dying. And they’re not dying because they want to. They’re dying because they’re addicts and they need help. And I wonder if some of these in between type of scenarios like a THC or if maybe that will give people some relief to some of this pain that’s not so driven in psychotropic drugs.

Matt [00:29:24]:

Right. Yeah. I mean, I in the Just Say no era, you know, it was like, marijuana is the gateway drug.

Stephanie [00:29:32]:


Matt [00:29:33]:

Well, again, that’s a long time ago, and I don’t believe that. I believe this is some relief for people who don’t know where else to turn. And I would rather have a family member taking THC seltzers than jumping on pain medication. Think of you or me. I take four pills a day for my nerve. I don’t even know what they do anymore. I don’t know why I take them. I don’t know if I stopped taking them, it would make a difference. These are things that are pushed on you.

Stephanie [00:30:23]:

And you’re afraid. Nobody wants to be in pain. Chronic pain is a real thing, and it’s a horrible thing. And you get to where whatever it is that helps ease that, you just don’t want to mess with it. Right. Because why go back to pain? It’s terrible.

Matt [00:30:42]:

Yeah, I get it. Yeah. I think the overall message is for folks to what my stores are, how they’re different than other stores, is I’ve got beautiful stores. I have a lot of plants. I have a pond in one of my stores. It’s curating a comfortable atmosphere for folks to come in and feel safe. You shouldn’t feel icky.

Stephanie [00:31:19]:

The number one thing you have is just educated people.

Matt [00:31:23]:


Stephanie [00:31:24]:

That just makes such a huge difference.

Matt [00:31:28]:

It’s awesome how many kids bring their moms or dads in, you know, like, it’s almost every shift that I see somebody bringing in somebody else to educate them. When you go in with your son or daughter and they’ve been doing this for a while, you feel a lot better because you trust your son or daughter on some of those things. I do see some moms and dads. They’re not honest with their adolescent children, what they’re in there for. They’re kind of like, disguising it. But then there’s so many other people who are just like, this is what this is, and they’re honest with their kid. And we’re in that gray space right now of switching from this is like, let’s not talk about let’s not talk about stuff. It’s cool that we do it, but let’s just keep it on the down low to a time where it’s a little more normal and okay and not you don’t have to hide it well.

Stephanie [00:32:39]:

And this has been a great conversation. I encourage people to come into the store at Dabbler Depot THC and get their own experience, try their own level of comfortability and just look around. We’re probably here to stay in some form, and I think that legalization will be here in some form. So let’s do it in a way that honors people and that’s respectful. And hopefully the people that need the relief will get it, because it might not ever be my thing, but that’s fine. I’ll do me and the world will be a better place.

Matt [00:33:20]:

Them 100%. Well said.

Stephanie [00:33:22]:

I love it. Matt, thanks for chatting with us today on the makers in Minnesota. You’ve been such a pioneer in so many things. It’s been great to talk to you.

Matt [00:33:29]:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Stephanie [00:33:30]:

All right, we’ll talk soon. Bye.