Grow, Gift, Repair

The 96-year-old co-founder of this Massachusetts cannabis dispensary wanted to give people jobs and ‘a better way of life’

Gilmore’s name is not a new one in Greater Boston, and this venture just another addition to a resume rife with accomplishments. He’s a World War II veteran and was the President and CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Boston for decades, staying involved from the 1970s until December 2014. He’s also a co-founder of the Unity Bank and Trust Company in Roxbury. And, Gilmore ran the Western Front club in Cambridge, a popular spot for reggae until it closed in 2013.

“I’m a workaholic, by the way,” said Gilmore, his charisma seeping through the phone. “My life, I’ve been working and bringing jobs to the community and changing the lives of people. That has kept me young.”

When the opportunity to start a dispensary, one that is part of the state Cannabis Control Commission’s economic empowerment program, came up, Gilmore and Dennis Benzan worked to get a team together.

Benzan, the former vice mayor of Cambridge, and Gilmore are co-founders of the dispensary. Western Front has more than 20 investors, the majority of whom are Black and Latino, Benzan said.

More than 95% of Western Front’s employees are people of color and more than 70% come from communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition. Right now, about 26 people work at the dispensary, Benzan said, and Western Front has contracts with minority companies for other services, like security.