Riviera Creek Launches Expansion to Double Capacity

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – By January, Riviera Creek Holdings LLC will have doubled the growing space it has at its Crescent Street cultivation and processing facility.

The company needs the space to accommodate expanding sales of its medical marijuana products throughout Ohio and expansion of its own product lines, chairman Brian Kessler said.

Riviera Creek, which received its license to grow medical marijuana in 2017 and began operations in 2019, is in the process of adding four grow rooms for growing the cannabis bud product. Kessler said he expects to have the rooms operating in January.

Brian and Daniel Kessler in the grow room under construction.

The company is one of 23 Level I provisional license holders in Ohio, which permits it to operate up to 25,000 square feet of growing space. The company also possesses one of 46 provisional processing licenses.

“We’re producing thousands of pounds [annually] in our current space, and we’ll be doubling that” with the expansion, Kessler said, declining to be more specific. Once the current expansion is complete, about three-quarters of the 72,000-square-foot building will be built out. Employment, now at about 60 employees, is expected approach 100 in January if the planting goes as scheduled.

Riviera Creek produces an array of vape-based products from buds to solvent bubbleless ice hash and solventless hash rosin that carry names familiar to Mahoning Valley residents such as Stambaugh, Wild Cat, Volney and even Avanti.

The Ohio Department of Commerce reports that since sales of medical marijuana began in April 2019, total product sales as of Aug. 8 in Ohio were at more than $945 million, and 110,643 pounds of plant material have been produced.

From the beginning, Riviera Creek’s business model was “to grow our business based on demand in the state,” Kessler said. The first two grow rooms at the site served as the test-bed to design the technologies used to grow its products.

The focus has been on creating stability in the product. When people have interacted with marijuana in the past, especially when it was grown illegally, they had a different experience from batch to batch. With most consumed goods, whether “alcohol or Tylenol,” the interaction is consistent.

One method Riviera Creek uses to maintain consistency is growing its plants using aeroponics, eliminating variables such as those caused when a plant root goes in one direction rather than another. “We grow here differently than any other grower in the world,” he said.” Nothing touches our plants but light, water, nutrients and air.”

The cycle from planting to harvest can take anywhere from 10 to 14 weeks, said Daniel Kessler, a partner in Riviera Creek and the company’s CEO. He is Brian Kessler’s nephew.

That consistency is also seen in the individual grow rooms. The plants in each row, nourished under growing lights, are largely uniform in height relative to one another.

Feedback from dispensaries is positive but marketing the product is challenging, said Mallorie Molek, marketing specialist.

“There are a lot of guidelines set by the state,” she said.

Mass media such as radio and television are out because ads can’t be used where someone under the age of 18 can see them, she explained.

“We’ll send out email blasts to patients who have given us their email before,” she said. “It’s pretty much marketing to the audience that we already have or the audience that has medical cards in Ohio.”

Stambaugh is the company’s premium brand, Kessler said. Based on 300 independent tests over three years, it tested at a 1% variance on every test. “The good news is when a customer gets our product, now their experience hopefully is as consistent as it can be,” he said.

“Right now all of Riviera Creek’s product is cannabis based, so we don’t do any foods, we don’t do tinctures, we don’t do cremes,” he said, “We plan to do some of that in the future, depending on demand.” Just keeping up with demand for what the company makes now “has been overwhelming,” he acknowledged.

The newest product is “moon rocks,” or coated natural buds, that can be vaped in small doses to get the same experience and desired interaction. “We do very high potency so that you can interact with it with very small doses. Micro-dosing is what we believe is the best way,” he said.

Riviera Creek supplies product to all of Ohio’s 58 dispensaries. “I think we’re the only grower that can claim we sell to every dispensary in the state. We’re proud of that, actually,” Kessler said.

Pictured at top: Daniel Kessler checks out cannabis plants at Riviera Creek.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.