Businesses in NETA’s neighborhood see marijuana bump

  • Jeffrey Kuhn, a manager at Northampton Coffee, talks about the effect NETA has had on area businesses. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Peter St. Martin, co-owner of Sylvester’s, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeffrey Kuhn, a manager at Northampton Coffee, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Peter St. Martin, owner of Sylvester’s, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bel Garcia, a manager at Deals & Steals, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bel Garcia, a manager & Deals and Steals, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mike Schilling, a co-owner of Beerology, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mike Schilling, a co-owner of Beerology, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bel Garcia, a manager at Deals & Steals, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mike Schilling, a co-owner of Beerology, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • John Richi, owner of Pro Lube, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • John Richi, owner of Pro Lube, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • John Richi, owner of Pro Lube, talks about the effect NETA has had on the neighborhood. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/30/2019 11:26:34 PM

NORTHAMPTON — New England Treatment Access, which was recently sold to national marijuana company Surterra Wellness, has seen millions of dollars in recreational marijuana sales since its Northampton location became one of the first two businesses to sell legal recreational marijuana in the United States east of the Mississippi. And it hasn’t been the only business to profit in the area.

In terms of sales at Northampton Liquors & Wine, “It’s made a big difference,” said owner Rita Patel on a recent afternoon.

Tax data that could help shed light on the economic impact recreational marijuana sales have had on Northampton businesses will be released in April. But in the meantime, several area businesses have felt that impact.

“November was huge,” Patel said, noting that since then business at her store has been “consistently better.”

Jeffrey Kuhn, who manages Northampton Coffee on Pleasant Street, also said there was a big increase in sales in the weeks after NETA began selling recreational marijuana in the city on Nov. 20.

“We saw a pretty significant bump,” he said. “Definitely getting more foot traffic.”

And although business has been slower in January, Kuhn said that he expects NETA to continue to bring customers his way.

“I think long term it can be pretty good for business,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn also noted the large number of out-of-state license plates he has been seeing since recreational sales started at NETA — including New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York plates.

“People are definitely coming through here more regularly,” he said.

But not everyone is seeing a bump. John St. Martin, a co-owner of Sylvester’s restaurant, said that while business has been good, he can’t necessarily attribute it to NETA customers.

“My sense is that people were coming into town, buying what they want to buy, and leaving,” he said.

St. Martin, who also co-owns Roberto’s restaurant, hasn’t noticed a NETA-related increase in business there, either, he said.

But Bel Garcia, manager of the Pleasant Street store Deals & Steals, has noticed an uptick in sales, driven by NETA customers, including those from out of town. “Especially on the weekends,” she said.

And out-of-state customers have told their friends about Deals & Steals, which in turn has brought more business. “Which is really cool,” Garcia said.

Still, an increase in NETA customers has coincided with more shoplifting incidents, she said: “There’s been a lot of crime, unfortunately.”

John Jessop, a shoe salesperson at Deals & Steals, said that recreational sales at NETA also has meant a heightened interest in the store’s CBD oil, essential oils, and snacks — specifically discounted chips.

“It’s very easy to sell snacks to folks who, you know, have the munchies,” he said.

Mike Schilling co-owns Beerology on Pleasant Street with his wife, Jordana Starr, who works at NETA. He said that he has seen more foot traffic and a small spike in sales in the wake of NETA’s success.

“They’re always very nice,” he said of NETA customers.

As for the traffic downtown, “I like it,” Schilling said. “Why are we in Northampton? We wanted a busy town atmosphere.”

In the first few weeks of recreational sales, traffic was bad around the nearby Pro Lube Auto Center, said owner John Richi: “If anything, the additional traffic kind of hurt us a little bit.” But since then, “It’s all calmed down quite a bit,” he said.

Richi allowed customers to park in his lot in exchange for an oil change, but he said he got only about a half-dozen customers. He also allowed customers to park in his lot for a $20 fee, though he only got two takers.

Richi did have some cars towed. “I don’t want to tow cars,” he said. “That’s not what we’re here for.”

But hardly anybody parks in his lot anymore, he added: “I think the word’s gotten out that the businesses around here are towing cars.”

The Daily Hampshire Gazette has an agreement with NETA for its customers to use its parking lot, with more than 50-plus parking spaces being rented out on average daily.

Michael Moses, vice president of sales and marketing for Newspapers of New England, Massachusetts, said that the agreement “seemed like the right thing to do.”

He also noted that NETA has advertised for its medical marijuana business in the Gazette, although the Gazette has not run any advertisements for NETA’s recreational business.

In addition, NETA says it rents parking spaces on Saturdays and Sundays from Pro Lube, Northampton Integrative Medicine and in the Jack Fortier lot. It also rents parking space for its staff from Fairfield Inn & Suites daily.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said that everything he has heard about the economic impact of marijuana sales has been anecdotal, but “I haven’t heard anything negative.”

Narkewicz added that the city should receive the hotel/motel and meals tax revenues collected in November, December and January from the Department of Revenue sometime in April. He also noted that, at that same time, the DOR will be releasing the local tax money from recreational marijuana to the city.

Suzanne Beck, the executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber recently sat down with NETA representatives to help connect the dispensary with the rest of Northampton, and that the chamber’s visitor’s guides will soon be available at NETA.

Leslie Laurie, regional director for NETA in Western Massachusetts, said that NETA has always wanted to be an “integral part of the Northampton community.”

She noted how NETA tries to use local businesses, including Pedal People for its garbage and Construct Associates Inc. for its most recent renovation. Laurie also said that, rather than have food trucks in its lot, NETA encourages people to go downtown. Additionally, Laurie said that NETA has a pamphlet that encourages people to see music, and enjoy food and coffee in the city, although it doesn’t name individual establishments.

“We very much want to see a vibrant Northampton,” she said.

She also said that NETA has been a business member of the chamber from the beginning.

Starting on Monday, the mayor said NETA will also be reducing the number of police officers on detail that it pays: Next week, there will be two officers on duty, instead of three, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; a reflection of less business on those days. He also said that traffic on Fulton Avenue in front of NETA remains restricted.

“We’re continuing to use that same traffic configuration,” he said. “It’s continuously being reassessed.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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