The sentiment of the neighborhood was clear at the Heritage Club marijuana store community meeting on Oct. 29 – neighbors liked the company’s social equity emphasis and praised their presentation, but weren’t supporting them unless they could do something revolutionary about traffic and security.
Heritage Club is proposed for 116 Cambridge St. in the Lost Village and is owned by Maggie Suprey and Nike John – with Suprey’s extended family hailing from Charlestown and the Lost Village, while John comes from Dorchester. In their presentation to the community, they stressed their company’s commitment to social equity in hiring and supporting the community with mitigation. Their proposal is in direct competition with a similar marijuana store owned by Jack Kelly of Charlestown and slated to be in the old R. Wesley’s Bistro on Sullivan Square. Both cannot be licensed in their current locations, so it’s one or the other.
“We hope to make it very clear in this process that our location is best equipped to serve the community,” said Suprey, who grew up in South Boston after he family moved from Charlestown. “I understand the loyalty and pride the people from the neighborhood have because my dad, aunts, uncles and cousins embody it. I have a lot of respect for my family name and that’s what will hold me accountable and will inspire me to bring good business and good opportunities to the Town and more specifically the Lost Village…I’m not going to be able to show up to Parade Day after having done bad business in Charlestown.”
Said John, “A lot of people have compared us in this process to a David versus Goliath situation. We’re really excited about that because we know David wins in that story. We don’t want you to give us this opportunity because you know us or you look like us or because we’re from Boston…We want you to support us because you believe we’ll do a good job…We want you to see we’re thoughtful and prepared for what comes next.”
It was clear, though, the neighborhood near the proposal, such as those on Brighton, Parker and Clinton Streets, want major traffic relief before they’ll support even the best of proposals.
“I can’t support this unless our streets become resident only access,” said Anne Marie Callahan. “If you’re looking for support from Charlestown and this neighborhood, I would suggest you look at helping us get resident-only access for our streets.”
David Worsham, a neighbor, said he appreciated the proposal more than the competing one, but there is a clear need to mitigate traffic.
“This is the second business here, and I think we can all say this was a much better business proposal than the previous one,” he said. “That said, it has been quite clear that traffic is a huge issue. It’s not Nike or Maggie’s issue to fix it, but many people here are in opposition of what would be a fantastic business because of a City problem.”
One neighbor, Paige, from Parker Street, said she is torn. She likes the approach, but there is so much cut-through traffic in the Lost Village, she felt the store would only amplify drivers zigging and zagging through their residential streets looking for a way in or out.
“I’m really on the fence,” she said. “I’d like a business like yours here. The equity piece is important, but the traffic and noise and speeding. I don’t know.”
More than a few neighbors, also, were not exactly happy about a dispensary coming to the Lost Village, particularly when there is one already a few blocks away in East Somerville. Neighbors said their part of Charlestown always gets things that the other part of the neighborhood doesn’t want. Some parents said they have children that frequent that area on their way home, or when walking the dog – and they’re not comfortable with a marijuana store so close to the residential area of the neighborhood.
The nuts and bolts of the proposal is to run a 3,000 sq. ft. adult-use store in the back building on Roland Street, and fix up the auto body building on Cambridge Street for office space and training areas. They have 11 parking spaces off-street, with the ability to add 12 more in the evenings and weekends. They said their store would be unseen by the neighborhood as it is behind Cambridge Street. They also added they are in negotiations with private parking lot owners nearby to provide employee parking – promising their employees would not be parking on neighborhood streets.
The company expects to have about 500 customers per day coming through in-person, and they also expect about 40 percent of their business to come through delivery – a service that is soon set to be approved by the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). They would employ 15 kiosks to serve customers, an education area, and five kiosks for pre-order pickup. The hours for in-person would be Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Delivery hours are slated for Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 :30 a.m. They would open Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Mitigation commitments, beyond security and lighting and other basics, include establishing a Neighborhood Community Fund for the Lost Village with 3 percent of net profits put into the fund annually. They would also commit to sponsoring home ownership classes, and paying downpayment/closing costs in a home purchase for 10 Charlestown residents per year. They have committed to hiring 51 percent of their employees from Charlestown and 20 percent from Boston, with 51 percent women and 51 percent people of color. They also have committed to hiring 20 percent of employees from Areas of Disparate Impact (ADI), and 20 percent of employees with CORI issues.
Their timeline includes a Nov. 12 date at the Boston Cannabis Board, and then an expected trip to the ZBA in November. They hope to have all approvals ready to submit to the state CCC by December, start construction in January, and get final licenses in March and April. If that happens, they could be open mid- to late-April 2021.