What's in a name?

What’s in a Name?

To some, Best Buds represents a place to go play video games they don’t own; to some, it represents a community of people with similar interests; and to some, it represents their Cheers. A place they call home where everybody knows their name.

To me, it represents a brand that I have been building locally since 2014 and a set of accomplishments that I will be proud of the rest of my life.

Best Buds Collective Gardens was born from the ashes of my first medical cannabis dispensary, Natural Remedies. I had a partnership that went south, and my other two partners literally fled the country, dumping about $200,000 in taxes on me. So I did what I do best, and worked hard to build a beautiful and active cannabis community.

By the time that SB5052 became enacted as law in July, 2016, BBCG had evolved into a three store chain that represented tens of thousands of patients across Whatcom and Skagit counties. We were very active in state politics, often travelling to Olympia to testify for patients’ rights in state hearings and begging legislators to see that cannabis is way more useful as a medicine than it is as a revenue source for the state. Alas, we were faced with a decision in 2016. Either take on a massive financial partner (licenses for recreational stores were upwards of $1,000,000 in 2016, who knows what they are now) and go into a market I really didn’t believe in, or cash out and move on to something else. I chose the latter. Best Buds Gaming Lounge was born.

There are two statements that truly shaped the coming years and have an impact on the rest of my life.

“Someone should open a place where you can just play videogames with other people.”

“Now that we’re engaged, you’re going to own 50% of this thing. Quit your job, it’s time for us to get to work!”

I loved the name. I loved the brand. I loved what it represented. I had worked so hard to build it, I didn’t want to abandon it now! There were only a small handful of recreational weed stores in Bellingham when we opened, I had been a titan in the medical industry, and we figured it couldn’t be that hard to reshape our brand to represent a gaming community that promoted friendship and camaraderie. 

Our first two years were great years for the business! We started profiting almost in the first month of business (which was great, as we were totally out of money and Best Buds Gaming Lounge almost didn’t get to open) and were immediately able to start pouring 100% of the profit back into the business. We still haven’t taken a paycheck and don’t plan to anytime soon. PS5s are going to be expensive and I’ll never satisfy my craving for professional CRT monitors.

Now we have been open for two years. These two years have been amazing. We have experienced so much growth in so many aspects! We have truly built and fostered a huge community of gamers and friends that we’ll be proud of for the rest of our lives. We’ve expanded to have hard alcohol (1 year now!) and we have improved nearly every single aspect of our business and infrastructure at some point. We have experienced personal tragedy and had our business and community help us through the hardest time in our lives.

Now we’re at the two year mark.

We acknowledge that the cannabis industry has grown so much that weed stores are significantly more common than cocktail bars with retro game libraries. We acknowledge that the retail cannabis industry has dramatically better marketing than medical ever did, and we acknowledge that Bellingham’s population is growing rapidly.

These are all positive things for the local market and for the community at large, but it has begun having a negative impact on Best Buds Gaming Lounge. If I were to count the times we’ve heard “I thought this was a weed store,” “I thought this was a weed bar,” and “my friends won’t come here because it sounds like a weed store,” I would quickly run out of fingers and toes. My wife would run out of fingers and toes. Our staff would run out, etc. 

Bellingham has outgrown the name Best Buds Gaming Lounge, and so have we. Pride is the only emotion that dominates the last six years of my life, but it’s time to move on.

Our name is changing, but nothing else is. My wife and I are still the only owners, and our vision hasn’t changed (our prices haven’t either). The only change is the name on the door. And the Google listing. And the Xbox Live tags. And the website. And the shirts. Boy, there’s a lot to do.

Time for us to get to work!

-Hugh H Newmark

Alexis Newmark