Real Talk

Real Talk

By Tarleton Walmsley

It’s hard to believe it’s been about a year since I last shared an update about Garden Party and the precarious position we found ourselves in with regard to our location. I was going to map out everything that had happened since then, perhaps even including a Canva graphic to boot, but honestly really what matters is where we’re at now and it feels a bit painful to rehash the minute details of what happens when your landlord simply doesn’t care about the business from which you make your livelihood. So..strap in, we’re going on a journey of the here and now. The TLDR of it all goes like this: we are SO close to being able to reopen and perhaps you might be able to help. 

As I write this, I’m in my basement office. I’ve spent quite a bit of time here since Garden Party’s brick and mortar closed in January. At first it was pleasant–nothing cozier than wearing the same pair of sweatpants 5 days in a row, never leaving your house, and snuggling with your cats in the wintertime as you indulge in a much needed break from the burnout of running a small business the last five years. Heaven, I tell you.

Until it wasn’t. Until it isn’t. Right around March, I started to feel like..what a drag sitting in your basement can be. Sure, there’s a cute cat around but what about getting to see all the people that used to visit you at the shop? Waking up and feeling excited to see your shop bestie (Hey Fran! Hey Josie!). Hopeful that you’d have a busy day because lately, sales are up and you’ve been able to pay yourself, your employee, and make all of your bill payments on time. Feeling like you have a purpose that extends beyond yourself and into the realm of just maybe helping to make a difference somehow. As much as I also needed time to rest and heal from the shitshow that was being forced out of your business's location (something that I'm still working through tbh), I need to get outta the basement.

We’ve been making ends meet thus far with pop up events and more online sales than I care to mention. Okay, I’ll mention it. Traditionally, Garden Party had maybe 5 shop-wide sales in a full year. This year, only half the year in, we’ve had over 10 sales and counting. I’ll probably even be running another sale this week! While sales help us with a larger bulk of orders and money, they are actually rather detrimental because they cut into our already slim margins. And it isn’t that I’m complaining necessarily (I also understand that times are tough for people in the financial sense), it’s just that running an online-only business is vastly different than what we’re used to. Online shoppers tend to expect discounts more frequently, and it’s hard to compete with larger shops that offer bigger discounts, free shipping, and even a quicker way to checkout. I most recently learned we can’t offer ApplePay or AfterPay/ShopPay because selling cannabis-adjacent items apparently breaks community guidelines. Clearly I digress. 

While our overhead has lowered drastically, so too have our sales. One of the special things about Garden Party is that we’ve proven the thesis that people want a more sophisticated cannabis shopping experience. In fact, over 80% of our sales have previously come from in-person shopping, and it’s a point of pride for me that among other things, our business has been recognized in national publications for its design and shopping experience. But when you can no longer offer in-person shopping, it also means that as much as we’re trying (and will continue to try, try, try), our sales numbers have also dropped about 80% from what we’re used to, too. 

As close as we are to reopening, it all starts to feel further away when sales are down, you’re still in the basement wishing your business had never had to close in the first place (fuck those guys), the city still hasn’t approved one little ole permit for well over a month now, and your business coach often uses the word “crisis” to describe your business. As if you weren’t already aware. And then I start to think about the sad reality that a lot of small businesses are facing their own versions of “crises,” too.  

I see it almost every time I open Instagram. Another beloved small business closing–ones that I had wrongly assumed are raking in the cash, far from having to make a hard decision to shutter their business. It feels sad because a lot of things outside of my control feel sad right now, too. Watching absolutely heartbreaking events unfold globally, the utter disbelief I feel at how divided we all are when it comes to sussing out who gets access to basic human rights versus who doesn’t. The continued poverty our country experiences despite there now being an astounding 756 billionaires in the United States alone who pay less in taxes than I ever will. The list could go on and on but again, I digress, and the point is it all starts to weigh me down. You see, I’ve simply gotta get out of the basement and back to what I do best.  

But here’s the thing, and I’ve said this before: Garden Party is the vehicle by which I can try to create meaningful change in what otherwise feels like a shitstorm of a world right now. I want to make money so that I can do good things with my money. I want Garden Party to make money so we can reopen and continue our efforts to do good with the money it makes as a small business. And I’m wagering an educated guess that there are other small businesses out there that are also similarly wanting to do good things with the money they make, and that will help benefit the overall good of their communities. 


Recently there was a meme going around about how in ~times like these~ mutual aid and community care will be relied upon more and more as the systems currently in place continue to fail us. I believe wholeheartedly that my business can be part of that equation, continuing to work on improving our equity initiatives and standards, as well as continuing to share resources and funds with other groups and organizations in our community. In that way, I believe that small businesses are absolutely crucial and necessary. Garden Party is absolutely crucial and necessary. But right now, we need a bit more community support than in previous years. And in order to get back to business as usual, we need money in order to reopen.

Perhaps you’re wondering-why is TT sharing all this with us? It’s simple-the last time I shared in a vulnerable way about what was happening with our business, some really cool things happened. We talked to people about our needs, we had conversations about commercial leases and affordability, we started working with an incredible commercial broker to find our new location, and we even had conversations with folks about investing in our business. One of those conversations resulted in obtaining funding from someone outside of our network of family and friends, and their contribution helped us pay for new branding and a new website. And now I’m throwing it out into the universe again to see what sticks–I would love to connect with people in our Garden Party community that are interested in helping us with our next stage of growth. 

It doesn’t necessarily have to be investment, although that is certainly at the top of our list. As I mentioned above, we could use an influx of funding that extends beyond simply placing an order. I want to create an even better version of Garden Party that surpasses our old location, and I also want to start envisioning some longer term goals we had to put on pause because of the last several months’ circumstances. Plus there are other ways you might be able to help too–maybe you know about a grant that we should apply for. Perhaps you have a friend of a friend that is interested in getting involved in the cannabis industry. We’re considering all of our options, but maybe you have an idea we haven’t thought of yet. My email address is, or you can leave a comment here. Whatever ideas and resources you might have, let’s connect for a real talk!;)



1 comment

  • So well written and beautiful. Garden Party forever!!

    Savannah on

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