Broadway Cannabis Market Aims to Revitalize Downtown Portland

CEO Tony Birch talks about revitalizing downtown’s star power.

Broadway Cannabis (Broadway Cannabis)

Situated on an extraordinarily conspicuous corner lot once occupied by one of the city’s most iconic outdoor outfitters, and adjacent to iconic strip club Mary’s original location, Broadway Cannabis Market boasts a modus operandi that’s more than sticky green profit.

Under an umbrella of brands that also contains Fire Dept. Cannabis and Mint Cannabis Dispensaries, this three-story, mixed-use location on Southwest Broadway, despite endless reams of red tape and particularly harrowing zoning hurdles, aims to anchor a downtown revitalization. With a shop as welcoming as this one, the potential to affect the entire neighborhood is plain. And frankly, if any industry is going to provide a turning point for our ghostly downtown, it might as well be cannabis.

WW took some time not only to visit the dazzling storefront (which we found to be affordable, fashionable, well stocked and friendly), but also to chat with CEO Tony Birch about how remaking a historic Portland landmark was a labor of love, how cannabis can save downtown, and how the shop’s trailblazing second-story smoking lounge became the city’s most desirable event location for social stoners.

WW: What was the inspiration to bring Broadway Cannabis Market and social smoking lounge to the historic Oregon Outdoor Store building, especially considering the state of that neighborhood?

Tony Birch: It kind of started with the building itself. We identified the building, looked at it, and said, “Let’s zoom out a little bit. This is kind of a cool location, a cool building. It’s got a good historic vibe to it.” There were no [smoking] lounges in Oregon, so we created a space that was compliant, safe and accessible for everyone. We wanted to create a space that was upscale, not like smoking weed in your mom’s basement.

What was the original plan for the upstairs smoking lounge?

It was originally going to be as accessible as possible. There was a membership fee, and you’d come in as a member, and then that would grant you access. Ultimately, we paused that. We wanted to connect more with the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission on how they’d want to see something like that work and fall within the compliance of not being totally open to the public. That birthed the ability to do private events, but with the added benefit of you can smoke weed there. Most event venues get mad when you do that. We’re like, “Yeah, come on in and smoke weed.”

Tell me about the experience of operating a dispensary in such an affected area of downtown Portland.

We got the building in 2022, and we were surrounded by vacancies. There still are vacancies. I mean, let’s not gloss over that. We definitely took a risk on the building. Within one week of signing the lease, someone climbed the building to graffiti the second floor. Within the first month, I went to check on the building [and] someone had not only broken into the building, they were still in the building. I walked in and there’s these two dudes there. But we turned the building around, and we really think that’s been a catalyst. Now, across the street, there were three vacancies in one building, but within the last couple of months, all those [have] rented out and there’s activity over there. There’s new breath happening. We took a risk on that location, but we wanted to be part of the change. We really think we helped that area a bit.

If you could paint your perfect picture of Broadway Cannabis Market’s neighborhood in five years, what would it look like?

Portland can be somewhat of a dull city, and I don’t know if it’s from oppressive building rules and zoning rules or what. Not to hate on the city of Portland, but this is why people are not doing projects. This is downtown. This is where the glitz and glamour is. This is where cool, progressive stuff needs to happen. I’m not saying this shouldn’t happen in the neighborhoods or the suburbs, but if you’re in downtown Portland, your first time in Portland, where are you going to go? You’re cruising up Broadway. You’re going to Pioneer Place. This is where something cool happens. That’s the vision we have for this area—bringing some vibrant accents to an area where that is so desperately needed.

GO: Broadway Cannabis Market, 219 SW Broadway, 503-212-0608, 10 am–8 pm daily.

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