Eighty years ago, a modest storefront on Northeast Sandy Boulevard opened to little fanfare. Given a bureaucratic name that offered no hint of what was sold inside, Store No. 2 was one of four places in Oregon where residents could legally buy a bottle of booze after more than a decade of Prohibition.
When Store No. 2's doors opened in the winter of 1934, it signaled the end of speakeasies and bootleg liquor.
Now, history is repeating itself at the vintage storefront. The space is set to open Tuesday as Pure Green, a medical marijuana facility.
Matthew and Meghan Walstatter, Pure Green's owners, are among the growing ranks of Oregon marijuana entrepreneurs moving the market for the drug into the mainstream. Longtime cannabis consumers and growers, the Walstatters saw last year's passage of House Bill 3460, the state's dispensary law, as a chance to enter the lucrative marijuana business.
"This is the time to be doing this," said Meghan Walstatter, sitting in the cornflower blue lobby of the former liquor store.
The Walstatters, who grew up in Connecticut and have a 4-year-old son, have grown their own marijuana since 2005. Matthew Walstatter, 39, said he's smoked cannabis since he was a teen and today relies on the drug to cope with chronic nausea and other symptoms from a gastrointestinal disorder. Meghan Walstatter, 37, described herself as an occasional marijuana consumer who uses the drug for a range of health concerns.
"We came out of this community as opposed to people who just see a chance to make a buck," Matthew Walstatter said.
The couple fits the profile of the typical marijuana business owner in Oregon, said Alex Rogers, who owns Ashland, Medford and Eugene clinics where patients can get doctor referrals for medical marijuana. Rogers said entrepreneurs in Oregon's nascent cannabis industry generally have ties to the state's robust medical marijuana community.
"We do not see the corporatization of cannabis in Oregon yet," said Rogers, who's organized an upcoming series of conferences for marijuana entrepreneurs in Oregon
The success of businesses like Pure Green, he said, depends on the owners' expertise in marijuana and their knowledge of the latest consumer and medical trends when it comes to the drug.
"You need to know what you're talking about and be up to date with cannabis medicine," he said.
The Walstatters plans to supply some of the marijuana sold at the shop. They'll rely on other Oregon medical marijuana growers to flesh out their offerings.
Matthew Walstatter said he hopes to offer about 20 strains at any time, as well as marijuana-infused candies, soda and ice cream, and marijuana concentrates, like hash oil, which is made by extracting tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, from the the cannabis plant.
"Basically," Walstatter said, "the idea is to create a clean, friendly professional environment where patients can come and get medicine, vaporizers and glass and get educated. We want to distinguish ourselves."
Though Oregon was among the first states to allow marijuana for medicinal use, the state hasn't permitted retail sales of the drug. An industry of medical marijuana retailers has cropped up in recent years, but those establishments have been unregulated and, in some places, shut down by local police. Beginning March 3, the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the state's medical marijuana program, will open a registry of retailers who for the first time will be permitted to sell cannabis to medical marijuana cardholders.
The Walstatters' story highlights some of the challenges facing marijuana entrepreneurs. The federal prohibition on marijuana means banks are reluctant to do business with entrepreneurs like the Walstatters, who have to Promo Code mostly in cash. (The couple plans to install an ATM so customers can get easy access to cash.)
Finding a willing landlord also proved difficult. Matthew Walstatter figures he called hundreds of commercial property owners, real estate agents and property managers before settling on a space formerly occupied the one-time Store No. 2, which went on to become Hollywood Liquors.
And if prospective landlords worried about landing in the federal government's crosshairs - pot remains illegal under federal law, after all - Walstatter filled them in on the August 2013 memo from the U.S. Department of Justice, announcing the feds would take a largely hands-off approach to legal marijuana sales in Washington and Colorado.
A Lewis & Clark Law School grad, but not a practicing attorney, Walstatter said he and his wife, an urban planner by training, were determined to leave a good impression.
"We took great efforts to not come across as a head shop," said Walstatter, as a commercial refrigerator was rolled into the shop. "We wanted to come across as professional as possible."
The couple knows they're taking a risk by opening their doors before the state registry opens. But the shops' hazy legal status has done little to slow the proliferation of dispensaries - with their telltale green crosses -- especially in Portland, where law enforcement has generally greeted the establishments with a yawn.
Matthew Walstatter, who's got a marijuana business lawyer on retainer and has pored over 30 pages of rules for medical marijuana retailers, is certain the couple's business will meet all of the state's rules prior to opening. They figure they'll spend about $25,000 to meet the state's security requirements alone.
Those rules, for instance, call for cameras positioned at entry points to the building, in the room where marijuana is stored and in the area where transactions take place; the Walstatters said they plan to go even further.
"We're going to have the entire place on camera," he said.
Today, the storefront at 3738 N.E. Sandy Boulevard offers no trace of its role in Oregon's Prohibition history.
The shop's grand opening in February 1934 - along with that of three other state-licensed liquor stores - was reported on the front page of The Morning Oregonian. The headline: "Cash line forms in liquor stores." Receipts at Store No. 2 totaled $142.50.
Oregonians needed a permit to buy booze; they cost $1 for the year.
"The stores opened - inauspiciously at 11 a.m. with no hurrah and bottle purchasers did not open their purses with any measure of import until evening approached," the newspaper reported. "Permit sales marked the opening hours of the infant industry."
"This is a pretty amazing historical parallel," he said. "If you're the kind of person who believes in synchronicity rather than coincidence, it seems to tell us we were headed in the right direction."
Added Walstatter: "We thought it was a good sign."
Oregonian news researcher Lynne Palombo contributed to this report.