Forget the 401(k): Octogenarian Florence Childs’ retirement plan is to sell her legal pot store and go on a cruise, which could lead to some interesting chats around the shuffleboard court.

Share story

Florence Childs, 81, is banking on legal marijuana for her retirement plan.

Childs opened a pot shop, The Top Shelf, outside Spokane in January. Almost $700,000 in sales later, she wants to sell her store and retire, maybe go on a cruise and buy a convertible.

“It’s just too much responsibility. I retired once. I’m looking forward to getting back into it,” Childs said.

A widow and former bookkeeper, she applied for a state retail store license in late 2013 at the urging, she said, of her son and daughter, who insisted she was the luckiest person they knew.

Facing more than 2,000 applications for 334 stores, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) ran a lottery for retail licenses. Spokane County was allotted seven of those stores. When lottery results were announced in May 2014, Childs had won the seventh and last license in the county.

Suddenly, Childs held what some called a coveted “golden ticket” to the new industry. Some lottery winners never opened stores, instead selling their licenses to entrepreneurs. But not Childs. She flew to Denver to see what Colorado’s stores that had opened in early 2014 looked like.

Related video: Touring the pot industry

From artisan glass blowing to grow operations and retail, Kush Tourism takes curious guests through various facets of the marijuana industry. Read more. (Steve Ringman and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)

Childs said she doesn’t partake because she’s worried she’d become a “zombie.” But she said she has no aversion to others’ getting high. “Well, I can’t say I was extremely comfortable,” Childs recalled about becoming a pot merchant. “But I think it’s better than alcohol.”

Opening a store was challenging. Childs initially sought a store in Newman Lake, an unincorporated community near the Idaho border. But county officials objected, saying local zoning didn’t allow a pot store in her proposed location.

She ended up in Airway Heights, so named because of its proximity to the runways of Fairchild Air Force Base and Spokane International Airport. The city’s population is 6,426, but approximately 2,100 of those residents are in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Childs didn’t want her shop walls decorated with pot leaves or other stereotypical images. “I wanted low-key, classy and clean,” she said of her 1,600 square-foot store.

But first, Childs had to get fingerprinted and run through a criminal-background check. (She had no record, nor any “law enforcement contacts of any kind,” according to the local sheriff.)

State data shows her sales climbing from $43,459 from February, her first full month, to $137,922 in July. Still, Childs has been reluctant to broadcast her success. “A number of relatives and friends have no idea what I’m doing,” she said.

She said she doesn’t know what price her store might command. A spokesman for the LCB said he wasn’t aware of any “straight sales” of operating stores.

Childs plans to offer the store and emphasize its location — just off I-90, five minutes from Spokane, next to a Wal-Mart and casino — in an ad in September’s issue of Marijuana Venture magazine.

Childs is looking for cash-only deals (and no phone calls) in inquiries about her store; her ad lists as an email address. She said she’s not interested in profit-sharing or royalties.

She retired once after 30 years of keeping records for her husband’s accounting business. She’s ready to slip onto a cruise ship. “My ultimate dream has always been a European cruise with my daughter to visit as many countries as I can.”