It’s official, Catalyst Van Nuys has opened its doors in the San Fernando Valley. Honeysuckle got a peek inside the cannabis operator’s newest location at its soft opening earlier this month.
Catalyst Cannabis Soft-Launches Van Nuys Dispensary: #WeedForthePeople In California
While the Van Nuys store serves as the first Catalyst dispensary in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley), it’s actually the company’s 23rd location to open in California — and both consumers and industry playmakers alike are raving about the shop’s layout and vast space. With products and displays located right in the center of the store, customers will be able to have an intimate, one-on-one conversion with the bartenders for the ultimate shopping experience.
Catalyst Cannabis prides themselves in three things: exceptional product variety, quality assurance, and expert guidance. Their slogan, #WEEDFORTHEPEOPLE, is seen hovering up top via a neon blue sign, reminding folks of their mission to provide “fire weed at fire prices.”
Catalyst Cannabis Co-Founder/CEO Elliot Lewis Talks Brand Origins
Catalyst Cannabis co-founder and CEO Elliot Lewis states, “There's no easy doors. Shout out to our partners, they put the bill together. We're coming in here to JV to run it, but it's great to be in the valley. We love LA and now we’ve got one in the Valley, so good times. Generally, when you got a freeway right there, it’s a good place to be. Just happy to have the opportunity, try to bring #WEEDFORTHEPEOPLE up here to the Valley.”
The name Catalyst derives directly from its definition: change. But on a more personal tip, Catalyst is inspired directly from Lewis’s wife Anna.
“We were at a Christmas party, she was the catalyst to this whole thing,” Lewis explains. “When the name came out, we’re like ‘Oh, we like that.’ It means change, doing things a little bit different. #WEEDFORTHEPEOPLE speaks for itself. Yo, keep it simple. Keep it about the people. It's not just the hashtag, that's some real shit we’re living out.”
California Icon And Sports Superfan LA Baseballhead Is Also A Catalyst Cannabis Fan
On a beautiful Friday in Los Angeles, Catalyst Van Nuys brought to life the true meaning in community. One notable name in attendance was Dodgers superfan and social media personality LA Baseballhead, who can be seen at every major sporting event or concert in the city. And if you’re lucky in catching him, you might just win a golden ticket that allows you to spend $100 at any Catalyst shop.
At the store’s soft launch, he sported white facepaint over his entire head, with the word “Catalyst” fully visible.
LA Baseballhead states, “It’s the 23rd store here, it's amazing to have as many stores from up north all the way down south. Like we always say: #WEEDFORTHEPEOPLE. That's the way we keep it. Elliott is a really good friend, he looks out for everyone and that's what guided me towards them. The way they look out for everyone is amazing.”
Elliot Lewis Talks Catalyst Cannabis's Growth, Dispensary Survival And Community Focus
One thing that remains true is the fact that Catalyst Cannabis has established themselves to be a premiere, one-stop-shop to all your cannabis needs and desires. The best part is, Lewis wasn’t even aware of how strong his branding was until recently.
“Honestly, I’m now more aware that we were branding back when we were in ‘branding,’” he says. “ We were just being ourselves, so it's cool that we built a brand on authenticity. I'm happy about that. It's always supposed to be about the people. Without the customers, without the surrounding communities, we ain't shit. That's always the focus. Of course, we want to make a little bit of money, but it's always good to stay community-focused. We're excited that the name is getting out there. I would’ve never thought we made it this far. Again, now I'm aware we have a brand. But when we were doing it, we didn't even know what we were doing.”
So what’s the cheat code to surviving as a dispensary? “Stubbornness, and being willing to suffer,” Lewis answers with a laugh. “I wish there was a better formula than that. We run it lean to the bone, repair work as well. No high executive salaries. We suffer through it and try to build it organically. We never really had the big ‘fuck you’ money, which in hindsight is a good thing. It taught us how to live within our means and keep advancing. We've been lucky, the brand seems to have caught on. So our customer acquisition cost, as the lenders call it, is less than most stores.”
Lewis opened his first Catalyst store in Belmont Shore, back in 2017 in his hometown. At that time, he just wanted one. Now, he has 23 total — but the job never gets easier. In fact, on his way to the Catalyst Van Nuys soft opening, Lewis had to attend a hearing to save their Patterson location, in northern California. The city has been trying to take legal action to revoke the brand’s license in Patterson due to what officials claim are unpaid fees on conditional operations.
“Our position has always been that it's an illegal tax,” Lewis states. “Just because you call it a public benefit, doesn't mean you get a tax without putting it on the ballot. You have to put it on the ballot, which is what most cities do. We've been negotiating and fighting. Today was like, that's it. They revoked it at [the] city council [hearing]. We filed an injunction before the second hearing, so it never ends. There's no easy doors. Maintaining the ones you have, it's constant.”
For Lewis personally, cannabis helps him unwind and be a better version of himself.
“As a community, the cool part about cannabis is the world has devolved a little bit into tribalism,” Lewis continues. “Whether it'd be by race or left versus right, what trumps all that is cannabis. It brings us all together. Young, old, doesn't matter what color. Sexual orientation, whatever political leaning. If you like cannabis, that's what brings us together. To me, it's the glue to everything. If there was more things like that, that could bring a diverse group of people together that normally maybe wouldn't be sitting in a room, it would be a better world.”
Catalyst Van Nuys is now open at 8162 Orion Avenue in Van Nuys, California. For more about Catalyst, visit catalyst-cannabis.com.
Shirley Ju is a journalist, media host, and seasoned music industry professional. She is the founder of Shirley's Temple, a podcast series with a focus on mental health, where her guests include Trippie Redd, Chanel West Coast, Ricky Williams, Blac Chyna, and more. Shirley's work has been featured in publications such as Variety, Complex, Nylon, Flaunt, and REVOLT; she can also be seen doing exclusive interviews for leading urban news source VLADTV, featuring a platform with 5 million subscribers. Find out more about Shirley at @shirju on Instagram and Twitter, and on LinkedIn.
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Featured image: Customers at Catalyst Van Nuys (C) Catalyst Cannabis