We Are Not a f**** Weed Store: A 2 Year Summary of Best Buds' Growth
Have you ever told someone you were going to Best Buds Gaming Lounge and they thought it was a weed store? Have you ever told your parents about the bar you like, and they acted like it’s a marijuana lounge? Have you ever talked about the Lounge at school and your teacher was appalled?
Yeah, us too.
While we know it should’ve been assumed that Best Buds would only be a mediocre name for anything that wasn’t a weed store, we were emotionally attached and did it anyway.
When we opened a couple of years ago, there were far fewer weed stores in Bellingham. It was shortly after a law change forced us to close our chain of dispensaries, called Best Buds Collective Gardens. My fiance at the time still had a lease on a business space in Fairhaven, and wanted to do something cool with it. He suggested that I quit my current job with the Department of Ecology and be 50% owner. I definitely jumped at that.
Obviously our duty to the people is to bring weird to Fairhaven. While I wasn’t a big part of Best Buds Collective Gardens, Hugh was super attached to the name. I was in support of it, because I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to work for years on three businesses only to have a change in law close them abruptly. This was heartbreaking to me, so we held onto Best Buds.
It was not the best call. People to this day think that Best Buds Gaming Lounge is a weed store. This is problematic for ourselves as a business, but also for our bartenders. There have been some uncomfortable situations that arise from someone walking in to buy weed and realizing that’s literally not a thing. Some people got aggressive. The confusion clearly has caused some of Hugh’s old patients distress, which in turn distresses our staff. Best Buds has only ever had amazing staff, and we have come to resent the way that people treat them/us because we don’t have what some people expected. If you ask a bartender at Best Buds how often someone comes in to buy weed, they’d probably either laugh, cry or throw a pint glass. We are also fairly certain that a large number of the population has never even considered coming in because of our name.
We have certainly outgrown our name, and honestly, Bellingham has outgrown Best Buds.
That being said, Bellingham has absolutely not outgrown the need for a bar with video games. This beautiful, weird, town, just keeps getting cooler and more nerdy.
So we are changing our look and our focus. A bar with video games, not a video game arcade with a bar.
Buds Gaming Lounge just doesn’t represent a bar accurately. The logo is cute and we love it, but it just looks like a place where friends play games with friends--and it is! But it just isn’t 100% accurate. Our craft cocktails are definitely our pride and joy, second only to our game collection. Hugh is a weird kind of genius who puts his mind to something, and in 1-3 months is an actual expert at it. As soon as we got a license for liquor, Hugh put all of his energy into rebuilding the bar to fit a cocktail station and learning how to make the best cocktails possible given the tools we had. We hired Nicole, the bar manager from the Chrysalis, to teach us how to bartend and build recipes. She did everything from organizing our bar, to teaching how to shake cocktails, to consulting with Hugh on ordering the most high-end craft liquor and supplies. Since we are classified in a weird way as a business, we can’t actually prep food there ourselves, including garnishes. Despite this setback, Hugh committed to making sure our cocktails were among the best in Fairhaven, and I haven’t met a person who could say we haven’t done that. This is an aspect of Best Buds that really deserves more spotlight. As hilarious and ironic as we find it, we are actually an incredibly high-end cocktail lounge.
That’s why we worked closely with Jerry at Chazzzam to design a logo that perfectly encompasses what the 1-Up Lounge is.
People typically think that Best Buds is a weed store, but they also think, for some reason unbeknownst to me, that we are a place to drop off their kids. This aspect of the business is what I find particularly annoying -- not because we don’t like kids, but we imagined people coming in to play with their kids, not to drop them off while they go shopping in Fairhaven. This isn’t just an issue of misunderstanding, but sometimes parents will literally leave their kids before we have the time to make sure they have read the rules. That’s wildly problematic for us, our staff, and whoever’s kid, because we aren’t CPR trained or equipped with any of the functions of a daycare….. Because we are a BAR!
As well as the above issues with Best Buds, the amount of patronage we lose from sounding like a weed store makes it hard to keep up with the technological growth in the gaming industry, and has cost us a lot of money that we would rather pour into infrastructure. What other bars have to set a monthly budget for games, consoles, HD screens, and maintenance of all of them? Not to mention joystick repairs.
While our main goal is to preserve retro games and basically just have the sickest game collection, it is important to us that we always have modern gaming consoles as they come out. Despite being focused on the classics, I remember being a young kid and not being able to play the most recent Smash Bros at the time because my parents couldn’t afford the console. When Diablo 3 first came out, I was the only one in my friend group that didn’t have a console to run it on because I was broke. People in these situations are a large portion of the demographic we built the lounge for -- gamers without access to games.
Since so many of our goals with the Lounge stem from nostalgic, personal reasons, it’s pretty hard to make profitable. All we ultimately care about is having a reasonably wholesome place to play video games, since LAN parties died in popularity when we were kids. Video games and the maintenance of consoles are expensive, and add on all of the other expenses that come with a business/bar, we found ourselves with a lot more to worry about than we assumed.
For background, I’m a college drop-out who has been able to get by in life with various social media and marketing jobs. All of my qualifications come from experience, Googling things, and Wiki-How. This may sound ridiculous, but it’s been damn effective. My experience in Marketing is completely unique to my own experience with my own businesses. Not knowing what you’re doing allows for a lot of undiluted observation, and I’ve observed a lot. We’ve saved money doing everything ourselves, and I have learned things that I believe will make phase 2 of Best Buds (and our next projects) endlessly more successful. I have spent a couple years making my full-time job just doing and learning things to help get people into our business. Every second of every day has been an experiment in how to make this thing better. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that people will come in if it’s easy, so that’s what our goal has become. How can we make it easy for people to choose to go to the Lounge?
Clearly, the answer was to make it sound like what it is-- a bar with video games.
Earlier this summer we started brainstorming names that would do the Lounge justice. We took a two-week motorcycle trip, and on that trip we brainstormed. All I thought about on this trip was the Lounge. When we came back home, we met with Jerry at Chazzzam, told him our ideas, and got the ball rolling.
The 1-Up Lounge is a name that we like to think speaks to anyone who played an NES-- it’s also a vehicle for sick dad jokes. It’s been called cheesy, and we love that. We want people to walk past our signs in Fairhaven and not have a hundred questions about wtf a gaming Lounge is, while walking to a bar that isn’t ours. We are a place for gamers. We are a place for nerds. We are a place for adults to enjoy their hobbies with like-minded adults. We are a place to provide you with access to gaming while you may not have it otherwise. We are a place to practice speedruns of Super Mario 64. We are a place to play Halo with 12 of your friends. We are a place to show your nephew the games you played as a kid. We are a place to enjoy a reasonably-priced craft cocktail.
We are not a fucking weed store.