Black-owned cannabis dispensary aims to open in Keyport in time for 4/20

Father-son owners of Premo Cannabis Co. feel story will be welcome addition in Monmouth County

Premo Cannabis Co., a Black- and locally owned business, plans to open in the Bayshore town of Keyport, hopefully in time for 4/20.

The new cannabis dispensary, located at 2 E. Front St. (the site of the former Wells Fargo Bank), would be a plus for Monmouth County, a region that is severely lacking in shops that supply both medicinal and recreational clients.

Father-and-son owners and Keyport residents, Donald Blanks, the business’s president, and Skye Blanks, vice president, are no strangers to business ownership.

Donald Blanks has owned and operated Real Gymm in Keyport, an old-school-style gym, where he is also an athletic trainer, for the past 15 years. And Skye Blanks currently works as a senior project manager for the International Council for Small Business and as the director of the Knowledge Hubs project.

Premo’s third partner is Darrin Chandler Jr.  Chandler, who will serve as chief operating officer, was recognized by Gov. Phil Murphy in his 2023 State of the State for his hard work and dedication in the cannabis industry.

Premo was among the 48 cannabusinesses that received a combined $12 million last fall as part of a New Jersey Economic Development Authority grant program.

“We are so thankful to New Jersey (Cannabis Regulatory Commission) for giving us this opportunity, as well as the NJEDA for their program to help cannabis businesses,” Chandler said. “We were some of the lucky few to be awarded during the journey.”

Chandler is also a real estate executive at Ripco, which focuses on cannabis operator representation. Additionally, he is president of Premium Genetics, a Black- and family-owned venture that provides consultant services for cannabis brands.

“We pride ourselves on being the township’s first cannabis dispensary,” he said.

He added that he believes the former bank-turned-dispensary will be a “must-see” destination in New Jersey.

The Blanks men also are heavily involved in the local community. Donald Blanks has donated time, memberships and resources to area youth — impacting the lives of many families.

How did the gym owner come to open a cannabis shop? Blanks said the idea of setting up a New Jersey shop was in his mind when Colorado first legalized recreational use and his mentor, Chandler’s father, went West to be involved out there.

“He had told me when cannabis came to New Jersey that it would be ideal for us to reconnect,” Donald Blanks said. “And that was the plan. Being in this municipality, a sort-of throwback town, it just seemed like the perfect opportunity, perfect situation and was a perfect marriage.”

Blanks couldn’t be happier about being in Keyport, he said.

“I’ve been entrenched in the community for so long,” he said. “I’ve been involved in local programs, football, youth programs. Everyone knows me well. I’m a standup guy and my character speaks for itself. The community basically knows who they were dealing with.

“We had a lot of support to help us get to this point. Especially the mayor and council of Keyport, who were essential to this process, and we are thankful and appreciative of the community and of Keyport.”

Skye Blanks, who grew up in town, said the beginnings of Premo happened as he was finishing up his MBA in Washington, D.C.

“I was wrapping up my MBA and we were awarded the license,” he said. “It was just a natural progression to pivot to be able to be an entrepreneur. I always saw my father as one and always saw him being his own boss.  It is what led me to go into business with him — to continue that legacy.”

He said he also likes having an opportunity to give back to the people of the community.

Premo aims to provide safe, high-quality cannabis products in a secure environment staffed by knowledgeable employees. Product categories include flower, edibles, vapes, concentrates and tinctures.

The 4,000-square-foot retail shop has six point-of-sale systems and approximately 25 employees. It has contracts with most vendors operating within the state and, as cannabis connoisseurs, Skye Blanks said they want to always be able to provide their customers with the best curated menu so they can create an informative and collaborative culture around cannabis.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to people we know,” Skye Blanks said. “To be in a building that I grew up going in. The stars really aligned. I am passionate about, not just being the best dispensary in terms of quality product, but also how cannabis isn’t a scary thing. It helps people. And I want to make sure that we advocate for injustices that affected our community during the war on drugs.”

According to Chandler, Premo is waiting for final approvals to open from the state. He said the store will add approximately 25 jobs to the area.