This week, The Pioneer is looking back at the Top 10 news stories of 2020. Here is No. 9.
BIG RAPIDS — Despite 2020 being a difficult year for local small businesses, one industry has continued to expand throughout the area.
In 2020, the Big Rapids community saw the opening of four new medical and/or adult use recreational marijuana retail locations.
In addition, three additional stores have plans to open after the first of the year.
In March, right as the pandemic kicked off and people were being sent home from their jobs, Lume Cannabis Company opened its new location in downtown Big Rapids.
Lume Cannabis Company, COO, Doug Hellyar said at the time that the marijuana industry was experiencing a robust business despite things shutting down everywhere.
“It began the day before the ‘Stay Home Stay Safe’ order went into effect,” Hellyar said. “We had a huge spike on March 23, and since the order went into effect, our business has increased significantly.”
Hellyar attributed the increase in business to an increase in stress brought on by the pandemic and the resulting lockdown.
“Anxiety levels are up, and people are looking for an outlet,” he said.
With the opening of the new store, Lume also launched its curbside pick-up and home delivery services. Customers could order online and pick up their order, or have it brought to their home.
Hellyar said the delivery service doubled every week with more and more customers requesting it because of the stay at home restrictions.
Summer brought the addition of two more new stores.
Premier Provisions, a medical and adult use recreational marijuana retail store at 714 Perry Ave., opened in June.
Originally selling only medical marijuana products, the company expanded into the adult use recreational market in September.
Owner Kenneth Bryant said they were attracted to the Big Rapids area because they had connections with a Ferris State University student that was very knowledgeable about the area and really wanted to break the stigma associated with the industry.
“We thought being in a college town would be really good, where we could piggyback off of some of the student organizations to help break the stigma,” he said.
In a recent interview, Bryant said the company was looking into the possibility of establishing their own grow facility in the area, as well.
“That would be the next step in the process,” Bryant said. “After we get the grow facility going, we would definitely want a processing facility so that we could be completely vertically integrated.”
Following close behind, KKind, a strictly adult use recreational marijuana retail store also opened in June, at 846 S. State St.
General manager Joe Keck said they chose to locate in Big Rapids because they had employees at other locations that went to Ferris State University and recommended the area.
“We have been very well received by the community and love being part of Big Rapids,” Keck said.
Most recently, Lake Life Farms provisioning center opened in downtown Big Rapids in December.
Located at 208 S. Michigan Ave., owners Ron and Masha Gilerman said the new medical and adult use recreational retail store, will offer unique services and a welcoming customer experience.
“We are fortunate to be in the downtown area, and we have really great neighbors,” general manager Evan Carver said. “We are excited to be part of the community.”
With all the competition in the Big Rapids area, Carver said they hoped to provide customers with a different kind of experience.
One of the biggest goals, he said, is to educate people on their products and have open conversations with those that may not know a lot about the marijuana industry.
They plan to add a personal touch by offering consultations with those who have questions or concerns, assistant manager Chris Johnson added.
NEW STORES PLAN TO OPEN
In addition to those that have opened this year, several others have been in the works throughout 2020 and plan to open in the coming months.
Mother Nurtures, a medical marijuana dispensary at 520 Third St., plans to open for business the first of the year.
They will initially offer only medical use products, but plan to expand into the adult use recreational market.
In the works for several months, renovation of the building was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Once opened, Mother Nuture’s plans to offer a different kind of experience for the local customer base, co-owner Shaun Barsic said during an interview in November.
“Rather than being an open showroom where product is displayed and purchases are made, our operations will more resemble a visit to the doctor’s office,” he said.
Understanding that the open concept can be intimidating to some customers, Mother Nurtures will offer clients the option of a patient consulting room where they can discuss their medical needs in a more private setting.
In addition, Barsic said they will offer consultations with a medical doctor on a weekly basis for those that need it.
Barsic and co-owner Michael Vlasich plan to host educational and charitable events as well, they said.
“If the community is going to patronize our store, then we want to give back to the community,” Barsic said.
Dunegrass, at 801 N. State St., has been in the works for some time, as well.
“A lot of passion and energy has gone into this,” chief operations officer Eric Piedmont told the Pioneer in October. “Watching your dreams realize in front of you has been a lot of fun.”
Recent conversations with company officials revealed that they have been approved for licensing by the state and have their final inspection scheduled. They plan to open soon after.
“We are looking forward to beginning the hiring process in Big Rapids,” Piedmont said.
Another project that has been in the works for a while is High Society, at 804 Clark St., next to Little Caesars Pizza.
After receiving approval to construct a new parking lot, company officials predicted they would be open for business in 60 to 90 days but have yet to complete the project.
In September, RAIR announced their intentions of opening a medical and adult use recreational marijuana retail store at 702 Perry Ave.
Company officials said at the time that they were looking to establish an upscale, commercially attractive building and wanted to have an environment where everyone could feel comfortable coming in.
According to their website, rairsystems.com, the Big Rapids location is projected to open in spring 2021.
In addition to the many retail establishments popping up in the area, Michigan Pipe Dreams, LLC. is in the process of establishing a growing and processing facility in the Big Rapids industrial district.
The company received approval of a special use permit from the city planning commission in November, and approval from the city commission to move forward with the project in December.
The project will require renovation of the interior of the building at 125 Howard St. and is expected to take several months to complete, owner Kimberly Yob said.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been more difficult to have an exact timeline, but we are hoping to be on a four to six month timeline,” she said.
“We are waiting on approval of our application, which will give us permission to move ahead with the build out,” she added. “Once the facility is ready, we will need approval of our permit to operate.”
The company is applying for a Class C adult use grow license and an adult use and medical processing license.
“Big Rapids being centrally located in West Michigan is a great location for our business,” Yob said. “Also, being a university community, we feel it is a great opportunity for working with students that may want to enter into this industry.”
Once up and running, the facility is expected to provide around 11 new jobs. Yob said they will be looking for employees that are “interested in starting a new career in a rapidly growing industry.”
All the new businesses coming to the area are projected to bring additional revenue to the city and create new jobs for local residents.