Buddy's Lounge, located at 10 S. Court St., came to Athens in February. Since then, the store, which sells Delta 9-THC, HHC and CBD products, has steadily increased in popularity among Athens residents and Ohio University students.
Nick Marie, the owner of Buddy's Lounge, said all products are compliant with the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, which allows him to sell everything legally. After visiting several farms, Marie decided to source his products from three farms in Pennsylvania.
"The one thing I'm really proud of that we do in each of my stores is on my bar top there's a list of all the lab tests for every product in here because I'm proud to show off the lab test," Marie said.
The age requirement to buy Buddy's products is 18, and the employees ID everyone buying a product, Marie said. He said he made 18 the minimum age requirement because the 2018 Federal Farm Bill didn't specify an age requirement.
The Athens location is Marie's third extension of the Buddy's Bud Co., with the other two businesses being near the campuses of West Virginia University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Marie said the Athens location had the fastest growth of all his stores.
Marie decided to take his business near OU because of the similar atmospheres of Athens and Morgantown, West Virginia. He said many OU students who visited WVU would stop by Buddy's Lounge and encourage him to start another business in Athens.
"They would say, 'If you opened up something like this at OU it would hands down be the best location you open up,' and so far that has been accurate," Marie said.
Juan Alonso, a freshman studying computer science, said he enjoys Buddy's Lounge and would suggest other people try it out because of its extremely welcoming environment and the employees' willingness to help and inform customers.
"Even the next time we came in (Nick) was just like, 'Oh hey guys,' like he remembered us or something, and (we) thought that was cool, and that made me want to come back again," Alonso said.
Similarly, Hannah Louck, a junior majoring in history and sociology, praised Buddy's Lounge for creating a welcoming experience for her on every visit. She said the employees always let them hang out and enjoy the environment.
"I think that Buddy's creates a really safe environment for people interested in exploring THC products," Louck wrote in an email. "They care about making sure its customers are making educated purchasing decisions and will enthusiastically give a presentation covering its products to any newcomers. I can tell Buddy's cares about creating a good environment for people to hang out and socialize in and I think that its efforts are paying off."
Marie said his goal in starting Buddy's Lounge was to create a bar alternative for people. He said Buddy's Lounge sells beverages people can enjoy and relax with rather than going to a bar.
Louck said she thinks Buddy's Lounge is a great alternative to bars, especially for students who want a laid-back environment, don't drink or aren't 21 yet. She said some of her favorite memories have been hanging out at Buddy's Lounge and playing board games with friends.
"In my opinion, bars come with a lot more social pressure to drink," Louck wrote in an email. "Whereas, Buddy's feels like a place I can go even if I don't partake in the use of THC, CBD, etc."
With the many smoke shops along Court Street, Alonso said Buddy's Lounge has a specialty in Delta-9 products, whereas other smoke shops sell various products. Alonso said Buddy's Lounge is more credible because Marie and his employees know what they're talking about.
Marie said there's a difference between his store and the rest of the smoke shops along Court Street because he has authentic products that other companies don't have. He also said the smoke shops don't know the science and laws behind their products like he does.
"These vape shops truly have zero idea what they're actually selling you, whereas I'm actually approved through the different departments of agriculture, they are not," Marie said. "I get them farm-direct, they do not. Whenever it comes to the edibles and everything, those are all made at our WVU location."
Alonso said the downside of Buddy's is that the products are expensive, and despite being worth the high price, it makes it difficult to go often.
However, students continue to enjoy Buddy's Lounge and all the business has to offer.
"As long as Buddy's continues providing a safe, fun environment to Athens, I will gladly keep going back," Louck wrote in an email. "I believe Buddy's has huge potential to grow and expand as its popularity and business increase."