New England Craft Cultivators hopes to support small weed businesses
PEPPERELL — Another retail marijuana business is looking to establish a presence in town.
New England Craft Cultivators has pitched establishing a retail store at 112-114 Main St., home of the previously-vacant Paugus Plaza. The company gave an official presentation during the Board of Selectmen meeting on Feb. 10 and held a community outreach meeting at the Pepperell VFW Post 3291 on Wednesday.
This would be NECC’s second location, as it’s in the process of getting a special permit for a store on Sylvia Lane in Dracut.
It’s also the second business to pitch a retail marijuana store in town in two months, after Uma Flowers LLC proposed a store at 2 Tarbell St. in December.
Wes Ritchie and Ture Turnbull, the founders of NECC, describe the business as “a little guy company” trying to bring exposure to lesser-known marijuana cultivators and manufacturers by selling them. Two of those businesses include Gibby’s Garden out of Uxbridge, which grows, dries and cures its own marijuana flower, and Freshly Baked out of Taunton, which makes edibles to help veterans with PTSD.
“We source our product from small, local, family-owned businesses,” Ritchie said at the outreach meeting. “We’re the vehicle for these micro-businesses.”
“We’d love for more small businesses to see us as a catalyst,” Turnbull added.
NECC plans to offer curated “craft cannabis products” with a focus on those infused with THC and CBD to alleviate joint pain.
The over-1,000-square-foot unit where the store will be housed has been vacant for five years. Ritchie explained that the unit is outside the required 500-foot buffer zone from a public or private school yard.
The plaza itself recently welcomed The Lazy Bubble restaurant to revitalize the location.
About ten to 20 new jobs are expected to be created from the shop, with NECC promising to hire local residents. Turnbull said NECC expects peak business hours to be between 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.
“Think less Apple store and more Vermont boutique,” he added, describing the decor of the shop. “I think it reflects the feel of Pepperell.”
Turnbull then explained NECC’s security measures, including 24-hour video surveillance, hired security guards and reinforced walls. Patrons must be 21-years-old and present a valid government ID at the store before passing through the three locked doors. Marijuana products will be secured in the store’s vault to prevent stolen product and no products are allowed to be consumed at the property.
Ritchie said NECC’s security plan has been reviewed by both the local police and fire departments.
“Folks who come to our store want to buy products they understand,” he added. “We want a law-abiding experience. We will have staff who will sit there with folks and consult with them.”
“We can’t diagnose anything but we can make suggestions,” Turnbull said. “We do not want to be bad neighbors.”
Ritchie added that the proposed business hours would be 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, with reduced hours on Sundays. He added that town officials want NECC to have a “plan B” in case of issues with parking overflow.
Though NECC still has to sign a host community agreement with the town and file for a special permit with the Planning Board, Ritchie said NECC hopes to open in December at the latest.
Of the 17 people in attendance, a handful had questions on the proposal, ranging from local children congregating near the store, the presence of NECC affecting those with addiction or mental health trouble, and the possibility of having two marijuana retailers within half a mile of each other in town.
“These are valid concerns and I think it’s important that we talk about how we address that,” Ritchie said. “If there is a problem, we will have to work it out with the town.”