LYNN — City residents may have a chance to own a piece of the latest marijuana dispensary proposed for the Lynnway.
Chris Vining and Alex Coon, two Massachusetts natives, own The Harvest Club, LLC, a retail cannabis business with a “community-owned” concept. The pair proposed opening a dispensary on a piece of the 8,800 square foot Lynnway Auto Sales property, owned by Richard Aswad.
If Vining and Coon can sign a host community agreement with Lynn, they intend to offer investment opportunities to residents, which would give them shares of the business.
“We wanted to create a model that was both different as well as community and socially minded,” said Coon, 44, of Somerville. “We don’t do this lightheartedly or without proper preparation and we had been thinking about this concept for Lynn for quite a while … Traditionally, companies in our position would look for early stage money, but we don’t. We put up all of our own money.”
The company is moving along with a similar concept for Somerville, which they proposed in May. Vining, 33, of Andover, said they will not speak to any Lynners about investing until they pass the threshold of working with city officials to get the agreement and until the company establishes a board of managers that would set the investment criteria.
“We don’t want anyone thinking ‘where does our money go?'” Vining said. “We will map the entire process out in a transparent manner.”
As part of the initial steps of proposing a cannabis business in any municipality, Coon and Vining held a neighborhood meeting at the Lynn Police Department last Wednesday. One abutter to the proposed 461 Broad St. location asked them about their security plans. Vining said they will spend “enormous amounts of capital” to work with officials and the police department to ensure a secure facility.
They plan on 30 security cameras and adequate lighting, both inside and outside, and a large waiting room so customers aren’t standing in line on the sidewalk. The duo also has a plan for parking, which includes at least eight to 10 spots.
“This is a group that came in, was very organized, and had a great security plan,” said Ward 6 councilor Fred Hogan. “They’ve been in this industry for a while and it looks like they have a great plan in action. It’s something different that we’ve never seen before, letting only Lynn residents invest in it. I’m here to make sure whatever we put in is good for the city and these guys here would have everything we ask for.”
The company would lease space from Aswad, who has owned the Lynnway property since 1996. Vining said Aswad believes in cannabis and once they pitched him the idea, he believed in them.
If the agreement between the business and the city pulls through, Aswad said he would be excited to lease a portion of space to them. He said his front window showroom, which he uses for antique and overstock cars, could be a good spot for them.
“I’m excited about the potential of creating a source of revenue that will be huge for the city,” Aswad said.
Not only do Coon and Vining want to put revenue back into Lynn, they want to educate residents on the industry itself. Vining said they would host programs and courses at the location that would give residents job training.
Apothca co-founder Joseph Lekach, the medical cannabis dispensary that sits steps away from The Harvest Club, LLC’s proposed location, said he is watching the duo’s proposal closely. What it comes down to, he said, is what the city’s priorities are, given there are only eight dispensaries allowed in Lynn. He said spreading the dispensaries out throughout the city would be the best way to maximize revenue.
Hogan said the proposal was vetted by the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation several weeks ago. With the neighborhood meeting already complete, the next step for Coon and Vining is to develop their architecture plans.
“We are giving the opportunity to citizens to participate in something happening in their city and also give them a voice,” said Coon. “Nobody is trying to do this the way that we are. We could spend all our own money in investments and make it, but we think this is important. It allows for a more organic growth process when you let the neighbors be involved.”