Strong Words: Heritage Club Owners Say They Were ‘Slandered’ by Councilor Edwards’s Comments

When Councilor Lydia Edwards came out with strong words against the application and ownership of the Heritage Club marijuana store proposal, owners Nike John and Maggie Suprey were seemingly the last to know – and they said those harsh words relayed to the newspaper and the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB) were not just a rebuke of their proposal, but also a slander on their good name.

Councilor Edwards submitted a letter to the Board, gave an interview with the newspaper, and gave testimony at last Thursday’s Board meeting saying the Heritage proposal was incomplete. Now John and Suprey – who are expected to get an up or down vote from the Board this week – say they feel the need to defend themselves against what they said is an unwarranted and politically-motivated attack.

One of the sticking points is that Edwards indicated they have not reached out to her in a timely manner, but Suprey and John said they first reached out on July 13 about their plan, and feel that Edwards avoided them for most of the summer.

“Our first e-mail to her was July 13, and we sent another on July 27 – no response,” said Suprey. “We got a response Sept. 9 and booked to meet with her three weeks out. Then when that meeting came around she was a no-show, that Sept. 22 meeting. To date, we’ve had a 30 minute conversation with her in October. We have not heard from her at all since then. She only responded when we hired an attorney recently…We’ve been actually trying to work with her and get feedback since July. For us to be delayed, it will be inequitable to continue delaying us.”

Said John, “If we have to hire counsel just to talk with her, how is that equitable? If we have to pay someone to get in touch with the City Councilor, then that’s not a level playing field. To date, she has yet to contact us directly. That’s not an equitable way to get feedback for us because hiring a lawyer is expensive. As soon as the attorney reached out, she responded…It was important that happened. They keep saying it’s not political but if a tirade like that isn’t political, I don’t know what is. She referred to our opponent by first name.”

Suprey said their application was complete, and had it not been, the Board would have never let them go before them for a serious hearing. She said many have said their presentation has been professional and they have followed usual protocols. With that in mind, Suprey labeled Edwards’s comments “slanderous.”

“As for her slanderous comments, the Board went on record saying our presentation was thorough and our application was complete. That was completely opposite to how she slandered us.”

Nike John said as a Black woman, being called “lazy” in comments by a City Councilor hit pretty deep, particularly having been the first in her family to go to a private school and to have graduated college. She said she has worked hard as a kid from the City to achieve high, her father and brothers not getting the same opportunities, and now she said to be called “lazy” for something she’s given her all on cuts to the bone.

“Her calling us lazy – speaking as a Black applicant, I find that very hard to hear coming from her and especially never saying it to our faces,” said John. “I just wonder is the Board is charge or is the councilor? We thought it was the Board. We’ll take what she has to say with a grain of salt, but we’ll defer to the Board.”

One sticking point has been the ownership, and both said they have been upfront about the fact that they are courting investors, including some executives from New England Development who are potentially looking for an investment opportunity. John said others in the industry have told them they are actually being “too honest” about their finances. She said they told Councilor Edwards they both own 100 percent of the business, and discussed briefly some percentages that could potentially emerge if they get investors on board. That was not a statement of ownership, both said, and they didn’t “lie” about anything to the councilor.

John said she owns 51 percent and that cannot change or they would lose their license, and both said they are not interested in “flipping” the license once it’s secured. They said they are in it for at least five years, and hopefully for a lifetime.

“We have no intention in flipping a license at any point,” said Suprey. “We want to retain ownership and control. A lot of equity applicants give up 49 percent of the business away very quickly to get the money early. There are a lot of vultures out there looking to make quick money, corporate investors who don’t care, and we’ve turned them away.

Added John, “(Councilor Edwards) is insulting our intelligence by saying we don’t understand.”

Both said they have been criticized by her vehemently for the letters of support they turned in, which were form letters they urged their supporters to turn in electronically and outside of their control.

Out of those, they had 105 people from Charlestown who sent their independent voice of support to the Board, Suprey said, in contrast to what Edwards said in her letter. John said they were trying to figure out how to convey their support in the safest way – which was electronically. If they had known that Edwards wanted personal, heartfelt letters, she said they could have done that as well – but they were never able to hear anything from her since July, she reiterated.

In addition to the 105 electronic form letters or support, there were 72 from Boston residents outside of Charlestown, and 26 who were taxpayers in Boston living outside the city.

And as it comes to reputation, both said nothing has hit closer to home that the innuendo and whispers that the two women are not really “equity” candidates – that they are privileged and just taking advantage of their minority and sexual-orientation status to get ahead in the marijuana industry.

Both grew up in the city – John in Brookline and Dorchester and Suprey in South Boston – and had opportunities opened to them that they said they took advantage of, coming from humble backgrounds and trying to get ahead.

One of those opportunities was being able to get to Nobles & Greenough private school – an elite boarding school in Dedham. John said she participated in a unique program called Beacon Academy that helps inner-city kids get up to speed and entry into elite private schools. That was her path to success, her break, and one that her siblings did not get.

“My dad is an immigrant and my brothers are immigrants,” she said. “They didn’t get to go to college. I got opportunities they didn’t and we’re from the same family. We’re grateful for the opportunities we had and we understand not everyone got these opportunities and that why we want to give back. We took advantage of those opportunities because we knew how valuable and rare they are, and it’s concerning people would pull us down because of that.”

Suprey said she comes from a blue-collar family in Southie and Charlestown, and used ice hockey as a way to get entry into those same opportunities.

“I come from a proud, hardworking blue-collar, Boston family,” she said. “Sports opened a lot of doors for me, especially, in regards to educational opportunities, and I have been blessed with wonderful parents who guided me and sacrificed a lot in order for me to pursue those chances.”

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