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Fortune Bay expands its retail services with smoke shop

January 9, 2023

The Bois Forte Business Development Corporation has ventured into numerous commercial ventures in the past. Some have failed, i.e., two Tim Horton’s franchises, while others, like the Y Store, have proven to be a solid investment.

With any luck, Bois Forte could soon be on the cusp of hitting a home run by delving into the lucrative cannabis edibles industry.

Bois Forte Tribal Council District I Representative Shane Drift called the new venture a bold move for the tribe and added that it is a step in the right direction. He said he has posted on his Facebook page about the tribe getting into the THC/Edibles business.

“Band members have voiced their opinions about the tribe getting into the THC/Edibles business,” said Drift. “It is awesome to see that the tribe is branching out into the THC/Edibles market.”

The process went on a fast track in early November when Fortune Bay’s maintenance team and slots department started making way for a 2,500-square-foot rental space that will open as a Smoke Shop in early 2023 carrying various products. 

The Bois Forte Tribal Council agreed at its BFDC meeting in November to expend $150,000 for the new retail business. While it is being referred to as a Smoke Shop, edibles will be the main selling point for the company.

Construction continues at a fast pace as the cabinets and furniture that will fill the shop have already been installed. Fifty-three slot machines were taken off the floor to make space for the new venture. The new shop, which will include a large seating area and retail area, will be located on the casino’s first floor. Seventeen of the 53 games were returned to its vendors, while the remaining 36 games have been returned to the gaming floor.

Bois Forte is working with a Minnesota-based edibles company for its product line. BFDC’s CEO /FBRC GM Mayan Beltran had made a trip to their facility earlier this fall and was impressed with what he saw. 

Beltran and members of the Bois Forte Tribal Council then met with the key players from the business at Fortune Bay Resort Casino to further discuss how they could work together with this opportunity.

Since then, Beltran and other key personnel visited similar businesses and attended a Hemp Fest in the Twin Cities to get more ideas on how to best position itself as the best smoke shop in the region.

“Jake, E.J, and I went to it,” said Beltran of former Director of Marketing Jake Aune and Director of Gaming E.J. Deegan.  “A bunch of people are doing what we’re trying to do, including a lot of smaller operations. However, we will bring credibility and an expanded product line, which could become a big business for us.”

The edibles industry has many products aimed at providing a better quality of living for those suffering from arthritis pain, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and other day-to-day health problems one might experience. While some edibles are in gummy form (and other chewables), other options can be consumed via baked goods (cookies, brownies, etc.) or in liquid form. These can include topical oils you put on your body or in a liquid form you can drink. 

“They have pretty much everything, including cookies, popcorn, ice cream, and vape products,” said Beltran, who met with its Minnesota vendor following the December BFDC meeting to expedite getting products in so the shop is ready to go. “We’ll keep an eye on what’s selling and what is not selling and get rid of a certain product if it’s not selling.”

Aside from edibles, the plan is also to sell vape products and other paraphernalia. In anticipation of customers wanting to try products, Fortune Bay’s maintenance team bought a larger storage shed and refurbished it to include lights, heat, and ventilation. The casino and resort will remain smoke-free.

The initial plan was to offer more potent THC products, but for now, state-legal products will be sold while Beltran and our legal team determine if Bois Forte wants to explore those options.

“We have to do our due diligence of the safety of the products we want to carry,” said Beltran of offering products that exceed the state limit.

Although not set in stone yet, Beltran said he envisions the new business to be open seven days a week and have similar hours to the casino’s weekday hours, which are 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. 

Beltran said he expects the store to have eight full-time employees when the business opens.

“We’ll probably go with 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily,” said Beltran of the hours of operation. “Again, that can change based on our ability to find the staff, how the business is doing and adjust those hours as needed.”

Beltran reported at the December BFDC meeting that the current Whispering Winds Gift Shop staff would work at the new retail store to help man the shop as needed. On the flip side, those hired to work in the Smoke Shop will be cross-trained to work in the gift shop as needed.

If the new business garners the type of success Beltran and members of the Bois Forte Tribal Council envision, plans would then be made to expand offers to the struggling Nett Lake C Store and the Y Store on Highway 169.

“We would also look at offering products at the new convenience store being planned for in Eveleth,” he said of the yet-to-be-constructed store that the council recently signed off a letter of intent with the city of Eveleth.

While naming ideas for the new store at Fortune Bay continued to come in, Beltran encouraged Fortune Bay employees to get creative in finding a name for the Smoke Shop so that our marketing team could start designing a sign for the shop.

Beltran had already given his marketing team a directive to develop other branding ideas for the new business, and he has been pleased with what he has seen thus far.

“We think it will do extremely well for us,” said Beltran of the Smoke Shop. “Edibles, especially those tied into health and wellness, are exploding now, and we’d like to capitalize on that wave to help increase revenues for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.”

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