Written by Megan McEntee, Photos by Riley Valle
Pride Edition, 2023.
Upon walking into Phresh Start dispensary on Bailey Hill Road, you’ll be greeted with a lush atrium of plants and rustic decor. If you look closely at the galaxy-like epoxy flooring, sparkles catch your eye. Products are spread throughout the entire store – behind glass cases with elegant signage – so you’ll be able to shop at your own pace with all the information you need. At the counter you’ll be greeted with friendly faces, inclusive pricing and the freshest flower – you’ll leave knowing that your next toke was grown with love.
It doesn’t get more grassroots than this. Rachael Pond, co-owner of Phresh Start, grew her business from the ground up – literally and figuratively. Before breaking into the cannabis industry, Rachael worked her whole life as a horse trainer and riding instructor on her farm in Eugene. After going through a divorce, she started a caregiving business with her friend to make some extra money on the side.
“We helped adults that were living independently in the community, but they still needed support,” Rachael said. “So we would help them grocery shop, manage their money, budget and do all their regular household stuff – but they could still live independently.”
After a falling out with her caregiving business partner, Rachael was in need of a fresh start. Her soon-to-be-husband, Brad Pond, tossed around the idea of growing medical cannabis in order to make up for some of that financial loss. Rachael, a lifelong cannabis advocate, agreed to give it a shot, and began a fruitful and fulfilling career in the medical cannabis industry – to flip the narrative while continuing her passion for caretaking.
“I needed the fresh start to put my energy into – hence the name,” Rachael said.
Rachael and Brad converted half of their barn into a grow room. One side housed 22 horses, and the other side was dedicated to their plants. Before long, business was booming, and the Pond family had officially found another calling – one that allowed them to keep engaging in their farm lifestyle. After some time, they maxed out their allotted number of plants as well as patients.
“This was a weird transition time because I had just gone through a divorce, and my [new] husband and I had just gotten together,” Rachael said. “I was really leery of the drug industry because my ex-husband had been down a bad path. But marijuana, to me, was a whole different game.”
They established the first Phresh Start location in Springfield in 2016, a year after cannabis commerce legalization in 2016. Her goal was to hop on the green rush early, and after a year of searching for a building she opened the Springfield location to the masses. All of the Phresh Start locations are handcrafted by the whole family – Rachael, her kids and Brad.
“We started this without any backing. We got most of our furniture from Goodwill. We painted everything ourselves. We never had any kind of help from outside. So we’ve been able to grow this business on our own,” Rachael said.
Each Phresh Start location was handcrafted by Rachael, her children and Brad – who used his experience as a contractor to help with renovations. Everything from the artful displays to the galaxy-like epoxy flooring was created as a family. In the Springfield location, you can find a countertop made out of pennies, each hand-placed by one of her kids.
Born from her passion to care for others , each of her various business ventures primarily focuses on giving back to her community. She now feels extremely fulfilled by the way Phresh Start has carried on this legacy, establishing itself as a uniquely personable and customer-focused pillar of Eugene and Springfield’s cannabis industry.
In the wake of cannabis conglomerates dominating the Eugene market, it’s essential to support the small, local businesses fighting tooth and nail to service their community.
“We’re constantly evolving and changing. This whole industry has laws changing every day, so we’re just trying to hold out and not go under,” Rachael said. “We see a lot of the people that we’ve been growing up with, and a lot of them are going under. We just keep moving forward and navigating the storm.”
However, Phresh Start is excited about the future as they continue to make strides in local markets. They plan on expanding further and are partnering with other local companies, such as High Tech Farms, to produce high-quality, affordable flower with innovative technology.
“There’ll be a new way of harvesting, a new way of producing and a new way of drying,” Rachael said. “Our goal with our partners is keeping our prices low so it’s affordable for all of our customers. That’s why I partnered with these guys… they have really good quality and can keep the prices low.”
At Phresh Start, you can count on finding accessible cannabis alongside top-shelf strains to splurge on. While the smoke leaves your lips, your exhale of relief will come from knowing you’re supporting a dedicated family’s grassroots endeavor with quality guaranteed.