Last week, Mark Herer announced he's closing the Third Eye Shoppe on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Herer isn't beating around the bush about why. He says the business lost $600,000 last year, a victim of stiff competition from local cannabis shops, which have scattered paraphernalia sales across the city.
Hours after that news broke March 13, the shop saw an influx of customers—some had heard about the closing, others hadn't.
"Unfortunately, we're closing our doors at the end of the month. Yeah, a developer bought the building for $1 million cash," Herer says, with a frankness uncharacteristic of Portland, betraying his Los Angeles roots.
A man walks into the shop, near tears.
"What's the deal, brother?" he asks.
"We lost a half a million bucks, so we put the building up for sale and got a cash offer the same day," Herer says. "They're gonna tear the whole thing down and put up condos."
It's been just shy of 30 years since Mark's father, Jack, flew up from L.A. to open this head shop in a big, century-old house in the city's hippie neighborhood. If the name Jack Herer sounds familiar, it's because he's the namesake of one of the most popular and well-regarded strains in the world.
Jack Herer passed away the day after he had a heart attack following a rousing speech at Portland's 2009 Hempstalk rally, at age 70. That speech was a little taste of the way he'd pursued the cause of cannabis since his first smoke at 22.
"There's nothing fucking better for the human race than having marijuana morning, noon and night," he said during the speech. "You've gotta be outta your mind not to smoke dope."
Since then, the shop has been run by Mark Herer, who arrived in Portland on Jan. 11, 1999, to take over for a local woman who'd been scared off by raids on other head shops and was stocking the store with jewelry, incense and mystical rocks.
"She got paranoid, so she slowly whittled everything away," he says. "When I got here, we had white Zig Zags, brass screens and onyx pipes. I walked in, and I'm like, 'Oh. No wonder we're only doing $150,000 a year.'"
With the reintroduction of bongs, the shop became successful again.
"We got the shop up to $1.6 million just before Mellow Mood came in," Herer says. "From there, things started to slowly decline. I'm talking to the crew, and I'm like, 'What do you think is happening?' They're like, 'I think business is just declining, it's just the economy.' This is right after Obama got elected. Are you fucking kidding me? There's a fucking gallery of a head shop over there! They wouldn't stay in business if they weren't doing $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 per day. There's three head shops in three blocks! You're all fucking high!"
In the end, Third Eye couldn't weather the onslaught of competition wrought by legalization.
Herer has been a medical grower for years—something that made his father very proud.
After closing the shop with a raucous party—everything in the building is for sale, so make an offer if you want a souvenir—Herer will move to Southern Oregon to be a full-time grower.
He will dedicate himself full-time to Herer's Victory Garden, an outdoor grow, which will get an influx of investment from cannabis kingpins who Herer met at a bowling tournament. It'll be in Kerby, Ore., due west of Ashland.
He'll arrive in another place that's been disrupted by a competitive market—Southern Oregon sun growers have been hammered by the legalization that Mark Herer and his father pushed so hard for.
"The beauty of legalization is every one of them gets to have a real job now, and not be afraid anymore," he says. "Granted, the price of a pound went from $3,500, wholesale, to less than $1,000, overnight. But none of us are afraid to go to prison anymore."
The Going Away Bonanza at Third Eye Shoppe, 3950 SE Hawthorne Blvd., is at noon Saturday, March 25.