Balagan dispensary ready to launch on Northampton’s Main Street

  • Erin Valente, left, and Josh Mohr, both of Northampton, look over some of the 15 varieties displayed in magnifying glass cases on the “bud bar” at Balagan Cannabis during the Northampton dispensary’s first day of business on Thursday. Valente purchased some cannabis-infused ice cream in the Main Street space that was once home to Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Brochures and products on display at Balagan Cannabis during the Northampton dispensary's first day of business on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    A variety of bud named Donnatello Kush, from Montague grower 253 Farmacy, is one of 15 displayed under magnifying glasses on the "bud bar" at Balagan Cannabis during the Northampton dispensary's first day of business on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Balagan Cannabis opened for business Thursday on Main Street in Northampton next to its sister shop, Cafe Balagan. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Balagan Cannabis budtender Michael Wuchter poses during the downtown Northampton marijuana dispensary's soft opening on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. The dispensary at 235 Main St. is next door to the Balagan Cafe, owned by the same team of entrepreneurs. Gazette staff / Brian Steele—

  • Adi Nagli, Rachael Workman and Gil Sasson are co-owners of Balagan Cannabis and Balagan Cafe on Main Street in Northampton. Submitted photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2021 8:27:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A new downtown marijuana dispensary, Balagan Cannabis, is set for its grand opening this weekend, six months after its owners opened Cafe Balagan next door.

Three of the four owners of Balagan Cannabis at 235 Main St. moved to Northampton from Tel Aviv, Israel, to open the dispensary and cafe, which have been in the works since 2018 in the spaces once occupied by Sam’s Pizza and The Green Bean.

The dispensary held a soft opening on Thursday to prepare for Saturday’s 10 a.m. grand opening, at which Mayor David Narkewicz is scheduled to make the first purchase.

“I’m really happy to be in this location,” said Rachael Workman, a co-owner and native of Northampton who lived in Tel Aviv with her family before returning to open Balagan. Workman, whose father once owned the downtown eatery Jake’s, said the store hopes to be part of a downtown resurgence following the pandemic.

“We were eyeballing some other spaces on the fringes of town, with huge parking lots, or right off the highway, but ultimately, that didn’t feel like us,” Workman said, adding that foot traffic will drive the business. Balagan wants to attract downtown shoppers and diners, and patrons of local arts spaces like the Academy of Music. “(Downtown) needs people who are willing to roll the dice a little bit.”

Cafe Balagan opened in April, and although there is no direct connection to cannabis, Workman said that changing state regulations may someday allow for social consumption sites, which would let the cafe serve cannabis products.

The word Balagan is a Hebrew slang term meaning “chaos” or “fiasco.” Workman said she prefers to think of it as “beautiful chaos.”

“We didn’t take the menu-building process lightly,” co-owner Adi Nagli, who also owns a medical dispensary in Maine, said. “We traversed the state many times over in search of Massachusetts’ best cannabis. We put together an exceptional and interesting slate of products that customers can’t find elsewhere. And as a mom-and-pop operation ourselves, we dedicated a lot of shelf space to small, independent growers and labs.”

On Thursday, almost all of the cannabis strains on display came from Massachusetts growers, including Fernway and Pioneer Valley Xtracts in Northampton, JustinCredible Cultivation in Cummington and 253 Farmacy in Montague. Balagan is the exclusive Northampton dispensary for 253 Farmacy’s full line of Kosher-certified cannabis.

In addition to flower products, Balagan offers vapes, concentrates, CBD products, tinctures and cannabis-infused ice cream, seltzer, candy and other edibles like olive oil.

Competition

Workman said that the local cannabis market is “getting a little bit saturated” with dispensaries such as Resinate, Jack’s Cannabis Co. and The Hempest within a short drive of Balagan and more in the works. She said that many dispensaries in Massachusetts are run by venture capitalists rather than local entrepreneurs, in part because it is “exceedingly” expensive and time-consuming to get clearance from the state Cannabis Control Commission.

The staff at Balagan, she said, is “extremely knowledgeable” and experienced, and customers can “come to get a little education” about the different types of recreational marijuana.

Co-owner Gil Sasson said that consumers are becoming more discerning about their cannabis purchases, and Balagan wants to position itself to succeed in that environment.

“It’s not just ‘which of these has the most THC?’” Sasson said. “We have invested a lot of time in sourcing and training because we know this industry will eventually behave like any other: the places with the best product and service will survive, and the others won’t.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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