Paper City’s first pot shop opens 

  • Erik Williams, the COO of Canna Provisions, a new marijuana dispensary in Holyoke, talks about the new business which opened Monday, July 6, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nate Rivera, a supervisor at Canna Provisions, guides Andrew Brito through his order at the new marijuana dispensary in Holyoke, which opened Monday, July 6, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Isaias Lopez, the store manager at Canna Provisions, the new marijuana dispensary in Holyoke, talks about the new business which opened Monday, July 6, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Andrew Brito smells a sample of some the product at Canna Provisions, the new dispensary in Holyoke which opened Monday, July 6, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erik Williams, chief operating officer of Canna Provisions, and Meg Sanders, CEO, talk about their new dispensary in Holyoke, which opened this week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Canna Provisions, a new marijuana dispensary in Holyoke, opened Monday, July 6, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nate Rivera, a supervisor at Canna Provisions, guides Andrew Brito through his order at the new marijuana dispensary in Holyoke, which opened Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2020 6:35:33 PM

HOLYOKE — Paper City residents now have a recreational marijuana dispensary to call their own.

On Sunday, Canna Provisions became the first pot shop to open in Holyoke. Located in a renovated former Hampden Paper Company mill building at 380 Dwight St., the store is one of more than a dozen marijuana businesses licensed to operate in the city.

“I’ve been dying for this to open,” said Holyoke resident Andrew Brito, one of several customers to trickle into the store early Monday afternoon. He said he had traveled all over the area to shop for cannabis, but now can do so in his hometown.

Canna Provisions Inc. is the parent company that owns three retail marijuana stores in Massachusetts: the Holyoke location, another Canna Provisions shop in Lee and The Verb Is Herb in Easthampton. Canna Provisions Inc. is run by co-founders Meg Sanders, its CEO, and her partner Erik Williams, the chief operating officer.

“We’re really proud to be the first one open here,” Williams said.

He said that the store has 30 employees, and has committed to hiring 30% of those staffers from Holyoke. Sanders and Williams are both originally from out of state but now live in Lee, according to a company spokesperson. In 2010, Sanders opened one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, where she worked directly with the state’s governor to craft new cannabis laws, according to an interview earlier this year in the publication Women’s Business Daily.

Sanders and Williams — who previously served as the executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML — later created their own cannabis consulting company, Will & Way. The firm advises start-ups, existing businesses, investors, brands, and governments, according to its website.

Canna Provisions was also founded by Eugene McCain, a wealthy West Newton developer who is listed on state corporate filings as one of Canna Provision’s directors. 

McCain is known for having led an unsuccessful campaign in 2016 to open a slots parlor in Revere. After it was revealed that half of that campaign’s funding had been funneled through a company to hide the source of the money, the state’s Campaign and Political Finance agency handed down a $125,000 fine, which at the time was the second-largest penalty in state history, according to the Boston Globe. 

Business at the store was slow early Monday afternoon. As customers came into the store, employees walked side-by-side with them, guiding them through the wide variety of products on the shelves, which were themselves salvaged items from the building’s history. 

“Everything in this store has been upcycled,” Williams said, pointing to a nearby counter and noting that it was made from wood that previously served as a pulping vat at a time when Holyoke was the country’s largest producer of paper.

Those days are now in the past, and some in town now see the cannabis industry as a possible replacement. Mayor Alex Morse has previously said he would like to see Holyoke become “rolling paper city,” with tax revenues from the businesses operating in vacant mill space fueling economic growth.

Sanders said Canna Provisions is the “anchor” tenant at the 380 Dwight St. mill building. She noted that the company has spent more than $1 million renovating the space. At least one other marijuana company — Holyoke 420 — has received a special permit from the City Council to operate at that site.

The store’s manager, city native Isaias Lopez, said it meant a lot to him to see the dispensary open up near where he grew up in South Holyoke.

“It’s a game-changer,” he said. “If you see the style and culture in here, it sets it apart from everyone else.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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