RED BANK, NJ: The Green Room opened at 12 Monmouth Street for the retail of CBD products ranging from edibles, tinctures, topicals and even pet treats!
What is CBD? CBD stands for cannabidiol.
CBD is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant and is the second (out of hundreds), most dominant active ingredient in marijuana. By itself, it does not cause a “high.”
CBD is marketed as offering many potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety and seizure-suppressant properties.
New Jersey lawmakers set up licensing requirements for growing and processing industrial hemp with the passage of Assembly Bill 5322 in 2019, recognizing the difference between industrial hemp, from which CBD is derived, and marijuana.
We asked a series of questions to founder and owner Darek Wajda discussing his background, the two retail stores in Montclair and Hoboken, and what brought him to Red Bank to open his third.
TAPinto: Tell us about yourself, your family and where you grew up
Wajda: I grew up in Bergen County, NJ in a small town called Ridgefield. My fathers from Poland and my mother’s Cuban. Fun mix in our household getting kielbasa and empanadas at the same time! My younger sister and I are first generation. I grew up playing soccer for the New York Red Bulls and went to Bergen Catholic High School, class of 2012!
TAPinto: You’ve had an interesting career in media and social communications. Describe what the work you did with some companies
Wajda: I went to Northeastern University (NEU) on a soccer scholarship where I played there for 3 years. At Northeastern I was a Political Science and International affairs combined major, graduated with a BA from the school of social sciences there.
NEU has this incredible program called COOP. It lets us work full-time for up to 1.5 years before you graduate. My first COOP was with CNBC as a breaking news intern. I later went back to Boston and worked with a local NBC affiliate there. Then back to NYC for my second COOP with MSNBC’s booking department, where the following summer I wrote for NBC Latino on NBCNews.com.
After graduating from Northeastern, I was offered a full-time position with MSNBC’s weekend breaking news team. I worked there for a year before I moved to Lyon, France where I was a social media reporter with EuroNews NBC. After 6 months I moved back to NJ and wanted to start my own company.
TAPinto: How and why did you get into the CBD business? Why did you select Red Bank to open your third store?
Wajda: After moving back home I started working a few different gigs and one night at 4am walking back to my car in the Lower East Side of Manhattan I walked by the area’s first CBD store. Out of curiosity, my inner reporter asked for a job to learn the industry. I worked there for about 8 months before opening my first location in Hoboken, NJ.
TAPinto: Your stores are staffed by “budtenders.” What’s their approach and discussion when a customer comes into your store?
Wajda: If they’re a first-time customer, we explain that we are a CBD retail store with all hemp-derived products below the legal limit for THC for retail which is .3%. We then ask what they are looking for and what ailments they are trying to tackle. After we learn a bit more about the customer, we then describe the different options and help everyone find their perfect product. The great thing is the combination we carry including my own brand and partnerships of products that I carry. It always gives people plenty of options to find what they want.
TAPinto: What’s the toughest part of running your business?
Wajda: Honestly, it’s been a crazy year, between COVID-19, the BLM protests…having employees who depends on you…, there’s no rule book to how to handle these things. Especially as a first time business owner. I just turned 26 and I’m so thankful to my parents who lent me money to open my first location, because now I have THREE! I have a great team and awesome customers. The challenge is balancing my work with my personal life. There’s always something to do even when I’m taking time off.
My online business grew a lot during quarantine. I mainly focused on in store sales but the website saved me during quarantine when I went into delivery and pickup only, and the website handled those sales for the brand!
I kept open only my Hoboken location during that time because the brand had more recognition there at the time and I have this incredible sliding window there. Hardest is pleasing every employee, customer and future customer. It’s all about the customer service and being a good person.
TAPinto: The most satisfying?
Wajda: Without a doubt the most satisfying thing about owning your own business in this type of industry is the endless creativity your mind gets to have. It’s endless and for the first time it’s been running freely.
I wish everyone could feel that. New products, new merchandise, designing my stores and actually building them myself with my father and his team is the best.
I’m behind the counter making sales and changing lives, but what most people forget, is that I built that counter with my family and incredible team. It’s all about being a part of the awesome communities I’m in and making them know that The Green Room is always there for them, no matter what!
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