ashland.news
February 24, 2024

New Ashland dispensary opens in storied gas station

Kingston Cannabis opened on Ashland Street earlier this month in the distinctive old Phillips 66 gas station building. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
April 29, 2023

Rotating food trucks will also share space at former Phillips station by Exit 14

By Morgan Rothborne, Rogue Valley Times

Standing next to the front door of Kingston Cannabis Co. in Ashland, manager Andrew Barns was proud to say the new business is focused on community.

“There are so many dispensaries. We want to be a place where people can hang out. Community is the most important thing. We want to have as many events as we can, we’re trying to invest in community and keep it local,” he said.

The business is just west of Exit 14 in the former Phillips 66 gas station at 2366 Ashland St., which required more than a year of remodeling. In the space under the distinctive gull-wing shade of the mid-century building, a small stage faces a series of tables interspersed with fountains and fire pits.

Barns hopes to arrange regular performances from local musicians, along with local artisan markets, yoga, tai chi and talks from wellness professionals on cannabis and neuroscience.

Budtender Riley Shipley works with a customer at Kingston Cannabis. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch

Three food trucks — Laika’s Lox and Bagels, Tacos Libertad and Cat’s Crepes — rotate through the space outside the store. A different truck is parked near the seating area every day. More events and a wider variety of food trucks are expected as the business gains momentum. Kingston Cannabis held its grand opening April 20.

Just inside the door of the air-conditioned space is a lounge, which may include a pinball machine in the future, Barns said. People are encouraged to visit and enjoy events and the space even if they don’t buy anything.

Much of the cannabis for sale behind the counter is locally grown, he said. Under glass at the counter, the dispensary also offers a variety of edibles, tinctures and resins. Staff work together to choose products they recommend while also taking customer requests. 

Andrew Barns is the manager at Kingston Cannabis. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch

The dispensary and gathering place is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday to Thursday. It stays open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday to help accommodate events. 

Another hope for the future is to include a piece of the past — photos from the building’s former life as a gas station owned by Rex Bounds. 

“We always called dad a teddy bear,” said Deena Branson, whose father owned the old Phillips gas station and ran a mechanic shop there. “He growled like a grizzly but he was soft and cuddly. He just had the sweetest heart. He loved kids, he loved helping people. He always put people first, to the detriment of the business.”

Branson has been a chocolatier for 28 years, and has been co-owner of Branson’s Chocolates since 2005. Standing in her aromatic shop, she was filled with a bittersweet joy to reflect on what the Kingston Cannabis building used to be.

“My dad and grandfather operated a gas station where the ampm (convenience market) is now. That was an American station. Then they decided to have their own property. They went in with Phillips 66, and they sent ’em to school. Back then, they’d send you to school to learn the business,” she said.

Kingston Cannabis 3 Riley Shipley orders from Laika’s Lox and Bagels outside Kingston Cannabis. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch

After a few months, the father and son sold the American station and focused on the Phillips 66 station. She estimated the building was completed and opened around 1968. Eventually the station became an Exxon, but Branson was too young to remember when. What she did remember was the way her father helped people.

“He always had one real mechanic on staff, but he would hire teenage boys and teach ’em how to work on cars. He would let them close up the shop at night and use the space to work on their own cars,” she said.

Over the years, many people have come forward in person or through social media to share fond memories of her father.

“One person told me they pulled into the station with car trouble and dad just happened to be there. He was in a suit. And he said, ‘Let’s see what’s wrong with it and get you fixed up,’ and they said, ‘No, you’re in a suit,’ and it was Sunday, the station was supposed to be closed. It started raining, and he fixed their car. That was dad,” she said.

About 5 years ago, Bounds was forced to retire. Bent over with the aches of 75 years of life and suffering with Parkinson’s, he was still working at the station until he broke his femur. When the building was sold, it was in dire need of significant maintenance.

“They did a really good job keeping the bones of the place while also updating it,. It looks really good,” Branson said. “It’s a positive thing. What they’ve really done is created a gathering space,” she said.

Branson plans to collect historical photos of the station to be hung in the new Kingston Cannabis, where Barns said he, his staff and many others eagerly await them.

“Carrie at Cat’s Crepes used to work on cars with her dad at the old station. It’s just a really cool piece of history,” Barns said.

Reach reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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