When Queen City Dispensary in Plainfield opened its doors Sept. 7, it did so with a ribbon-cutting celebration — and a lot of fanfare.
The mayor, the entire city council, planning board, dignitaries from Plainfield and greater Union County, state senators and representatives were in attendance. There was a local DJ and a food truck on site, too.
The party was two years in the making.
Queen City Dispensary, located at 1353 South Ave., is a rare success story in what the state hopes will be a booming cannabis industry — one that attempts to correct social justice issues of the past while bringing economic opportunity to those most adversely impacted.
Co-owners Justin Singer and Jennifer Brandt said their ties to the industry — and to a welcoming community of Plainfield — were key starting points. As was strong backing from the city and its mayor, Adrian Mapp.
“The city was obviously very excited about our opening,” he said. “It’s something that they had the foresight to know they wanted to be a leader in the adult-use cannabis space in New Jersey.”
“They’ve welcomed us with open arms and have been extremely great to work with.”
Singer, an attorney and founding partner of Feuerstein Kulick LLP, a full-service cannabis law firm, said the reaction from the public has been great. He feels the store’s friendly vibe combined with knowledgeable staff has been key.
“Queen City Dispensary is authentic to New Jersey, authentic to cannabis and the cannabis culture,” he said. “And it’s very authentic to the playing field and the community.”
The 3,500-square-foot, standalone building has 24 parking spots on site, a wrap-around driveway and plenty of on-street parking. Inside, there are 10 point-of-sale stations and three self-service kiosks. There is an ability to order online and to schedule a pickup. The average transaction time is five minutes or less.
Singer said the store’s setup is just one of the reasons the store has seen continual week-over-week increases in sales — and customer growth.
The fact that Queen City Dispensary not only is the first adult-use cannabis dispensary to open in Plainfield, but the first such store in Union County, helps greatly, too. In a state where approximately two of every three towns have opted out of the industry, Plainfield stands apart.
“The map became very important in terms of where strategic opportunities were for locating dispensaries in New Jersey,” Singer said. “Plainfield happened to be one of those municipalities that opted in and, by and large, most of the municipalities surrounding the Plainfield area within a 15-to-20-minute radius opted out.
“The shop is very strategically located right on the northern edge of Plainfield bordering Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Watchung, Westfield, all these towns, many of which have opted out. So, you’re going to get a lot of folks not just from within Plainfield, but coming from outside of Plainfield as well.”
Geography helped in another way.
New Jersey set up its cannabis regulations to give preference to businesses that were located in impact zones — meaning they had been disproportionately harmed as a result of the War on Drugs.
Plainfield fell under the category.
Queen City Dispensary is a nod to Plainfield’s nickname. It’s just one of the ways the shop is connected to the city. Majority owner Jennifer Brandt, Singer’s mother-in-law, is another.
Brandt was born and raised in Plainfield and part of the first graduating class of the new Plainfield High School in 1970 — so her ties run deep. She’s also an attorney and an entrepreneur who always wanted to get involved in the cannabis industry.
When the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, which, among other things, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey for adults aged 21 and older, passed, Singer approached her and told her this would be her opportunity.
Singer also brought in Sarah Stretchberry, the chief operating officer of ApptitudePlus, a separate consulting entity, which Singer launched to ensure he had experts in the field helping with the application process and opening of the store.
“Opening a cannabis retail store is no joke, and it’s not for the faint of heart,” Stretchberry said.
Stretchberry and Singer previously worked together when she was vice president of expansion at Holistic Industries — one of the largest privately held cannabis companies in the country.
“Sarah was the point person at Holistic,” Singer said. “Her job was to get all of those stores and cultivation and manufacturing facilities up and running across the country, which she did.”
This store had a unique twist: It was a property that previously had served as a preschool.
And, before you do a double take, understand that Singer and Brandt did, too. They didn’t want to be known as the weed store that closed down a school. Once assured the school was closing regardless, they went through with the process.
The community is embracing the store, Singer said.
“We already have 150-plus five-star reviews on Google, which is incredible, and just a lot of support from folks that are coming out,” he said. “The one thing we keep hearing is that people are very happy that they now have something close to them. They don’t have to drive as far as they were used to, they love seeing the selection of products that we have.”
Being an independent operator, Queen City is not beholden to any cultivator or manufacturer because it’s vertically integrated. The shop carries every brand that’s in the marketplace (more than 200 stock-keeping units, or SKUs).
Singer said the customers are appreciative of having a large variety of products to choose from. It’s a list that may soon be growing.
“The law used to be that the edibles category was very restricted to soft lozenges, essentially gummies,” he said. “And there were restrictions against baked goods, like cookies or brownies, or beverages.
“Now, that law has changed, and we are going to see very soon a lot more of the traditional edible form factors enter the market that people are used to seeing from other states.”
Singer said Queen City Dispensary already has placed orders to have the products on the shelves as soon as they are ready, which should be by the end of this year.
Stretchberry said it will be another milestone moment for the store.
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through, but seeing it to that finish line, which is really the starting line, is just exhilarating,” she said.
Reach Queen City Dispensary at: queencitynj.com or call 908-941-7909.