Grow, Gift, Repair

First Worcester Economic Empowerment Pot Store To Open In 2021

WORCESTER, MA — Potentially the first cannabis retailer in central Massachusetts under the state’s economic empowerment program is ready to open its doors, pending one final review from the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).

New Día owner Ross Bradshaw is eyeing a January opening for his Cambridge Street store. He recently received a final OK on an opening plan from the Worcester Board of License Commissioners after earning preliminary approvals and his certificate of occupancy earlier in 2020.

It’s the culmination of a process Bradshaw began in 2017 — although his activism in the state’s marijuana industry dates back to 2014 — under a program that’s supposed to create a fast-lane for people of color who want to open cannabis businesses in areas that have been disproportionately affected by drug enforcement.

The CCC received about 122 economic empowerment applications during an enrollment period in 2018, and only 46 have submitted applications for licenses. The first, Pure Oasis in Dorchester, didn’t open until March.

Meanwhile, Worcester has seen a relative spike in new cannabis retailers opening in recent months after the city’s first — Good Chemistry — opened in May 2019.

Resinate along Millbury Street opened for adult use in July, Diem Cannabis opened in June along Grafton Street and Mission Dispensaries along Lincoln Street opened in September. The Botanist along Pullman Street and Bud’s Goods along Boylston Street opened this month.

Another economic empowerment applicant, Major Bloom, is working on opening a retail cannabis store along Millbury Street near Kelley Square. Ahead of the opening, the company started an e-commerce apparel site.

Bradshaw, 33, a lifelong Worcester resident, is frustrated that he may have to wait until January to open. Potential customers are constantly stopping by to ask about the store. Not being able to open has also delayed plans for community activities. The store hosted a career workshop in early November for anyone in the area, and Bradshaw is planning to host more when the store opens.

“The reason why we formed this company is to create opportunities for folks in our community,” he said.

Bradshaw, who previously worked as a certified public accountant, completed building the store over the summer with help from his family and local contractors. He says the 1,200-square-foot space will be unlike any other shop in town, and so far the first in southwest Worcester. He’s keeping the store’s interior details under wraps until he opens, only saying that he’s hired local muralists to decorate the space.

On Nov. 12, the Board of License Commissioners approved an opening plan for New Día that will include a weeklong “soft” opening with online ordering only, followed by a larger opening with walk-up service.

“We’re just excited and can’t wait to be more part of the community and open our doors,” Bradshaw said. “People are constantly coming in and seeing when we’re opening. It’s just unfortunate we have to sit in this waiting pattern.”