WEST TOWN — West Town’s first recreational marijuana dispensary opened its doors Sunday after statewide delays held it back for years.
OKAY Cannabis, 1914 W. Chicago Ave., is located next door to West Town Bakery and Roots Pizza. Owners include Scott Weiner and Greg Mohr, co-founders of the Fifty/50 group, which operates West Town Bakery, Roots Pizza and other local restaurants, as well as the former 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar.
Other OKAY partners include George Chiampas, Chicago Marathon medical director; Nikki Hayes, restaurant owner and former union official; Northwestern professor Charlesnika Evans and political consultant Hanah Jubeh.
The group first presented plans for the project to neighbors in 2019. The opening of the dispensary, like other social equity dispensaries, was delayed by a series of lawsuits that delayed the issuance of nearly 200 social equity licenses. in Illinois.
After years of limbo, the first of those dispensaries finally went online last fall, including Ivy Hall in Bucktown and Green Rose in River North.
OKAY Cannabis opened its first location in suburban Wheeling this February. He is building a store in Evanston to open later this summer.
And after nearly four years, the dispensary is finally ready to open on Chicago Avenue in West Town.
“Doing it here with the original Roots, the original West Town [Bakery], it’s special,” Mohr said Friday. “It brings a little more to this neighborhood and this street. We’ve been here for 12 years or so, we’ve seen it emerge, it’s been pretty impressive.”
OKAY Cannabis will offer products found in all major dispensaries, including flowers and groceries.
Mohr and Pawar said they hope the dispensary’s location next to West Town Bakery and Roots will lend itself to customers grabbing a coffee, pizza or beer before or after buying marijuana.
The owners want to provide something more than the “Apple store” experience that customers often find at the dispensaries currently open in the city, they said. They also plan to hold a series of events with cannabis growers and others in the industry.
“Right now, when you go to a dispensary, you’re waiting in line, they take you in and they take you out,” Pawar said. “But we want to be able to offer that transactional experience and combine it, integrate it with hospitality. And that’s where food and drink is a big differentiator.”
That emphasis on accessibility has also informed the company’s bright and colorful branding and even its name, Pawar said, as the owners try to create a relaxed and comfortable environment for regular pot smokers and curious first-time users alike. .
“It’s okay to be you. It’s okay to come as you are. It’s okay to come to cannabis as a regular user, as a new entrant. Alright. And cannabis is fine. It’s legal,” Pawar said. “That was kind of the original ethos.”
While OKAY Cannabis will have popular products found at other dispensaries, the owners also want it to become a hub for Illinois artisan weed growers as they begin to release unique strains and other products. They also hope to start a line of OKAY-branded products at some point.
“It’s like when the craft beer boom happened. Those really good craft brewers, they only had a limited amount of product and they wanted to give it to specific bars that were helping them, or were the cool place to go,” Mohr said. “That is what we are [going for].”
As other dispensaries across the state struggle to get off the ground after years of delays, Pawar said the success of OKAY’s launch in the Chicago area is due in large part to Mohr and Weiner, who brought their years of restaurant experience to the business. .
“Without the Fifty/50 restaurant group, we could have done this now,” Pawar said. “They figured out how to make money in a very low-margin business, which is restaurants. And I think they bring a unique perspective as an operator.”
The OKAY Cannabis West Town location will be open 8am-9pm Monday through Thursday, 8am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and 9am-8pm Sunday.
Clients must be over 21 years of age. Pre-orders are available on the company’s website.
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