Hemp is hit in new area store

Emily Dalnodar

With a growing national interest, it won’t be long until Target starts selling hemp products, said Christopher Repinski, owner of a recently opened hemp store in Dinkytown.
Tucked away behind the busy shops of 14th Avenue Southeast, the two-week-old Hemporium sits on the ground level of a two-story house at 1312 5th St. S.E. The store’s products, mostly hemp-related, give it a unique feel.
Hemp is the natural fiber of the cannabis sativa plant and is often mistaken for the drug form of marijuana.
Repinski, a former student of environmental studies at Hamline University, decided to go into business for himself so he could do something he feels good about. Opening the store is helping the planet by educating people about hemp and alternative products, he said.
“The University has a lot of young people that are of the progressive, environmentally aware kind,” Repinski said.
Not only does the store stock a variety of clothes, including jeans, shirts, sweaters, hats and socks, it also carries backpacks, twine, shampoos and oils, as well. All of these products are made of hemp. The shop also sells literature about hemp.
“Money-wise, hemp jeans are pretty competitive (to other jeans), but they last longer because they’re stronger,” Repinski said. “They’re made with a product that didn’t require any harmful chemical to produce. Why not buy that?”
Karen LaBat, a University associate professor in the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel also attests to hemp’s durability.
“It is a fairly strong fiber,” she said. LaBat has done performance evaluations for the fiber and found it to behave much like linen or flax. As far as tensile strength, hemp is very strong, even if it gets wet, she said. Tensile strength is measured by pulling on the fabric from both ends.
However, LaBat said hemp’s resilience isn’t as strong, meaning it wrinkles more.
Despite all the hemp products, Repinski said his store is not necessarily solely for pot smokers.
“My inventory is 90 percent unrelated to the smoking of marijuana,” Repinski said.
The store focuses more on the fiber of the plant than the mind-altering properties, he said.
“International use of hemp fiber has grown and continues to grow at the rate of 20 percent a year,” Repinski said.
But not everyone agrees on the usefulness of hemp.
“There are very outlandish claims concerning hemp,” said Robert G. Robinson, former researcher in agronomy and plant genetics for the University. Robinson did extensive research with hemp in the 1950s and 1960s.
Although Robinson agrees with Repinski and LaBat about the strength and durability of the fiber, he denies that it would make an economically feasible cash crop.
“Plastic has replaced hemp. It is no longer an essential crop,” he said.
Despite a general acceptance of hemp promotion, Repinski concedes that not everyone has been willing to try out the products.
“Sometimes I don’t know if the people are ready for hemp,” Repinski said. “It’s one thing … to be aware; it’s another thing to put your purchasing power into something that can change the world.”