Mission dispensary celebrated the grand reopening of its Chicago store on July 31, two months after it was ransacked by dozens of people in just one of several incidents across the country of looters targeting cannabis businesses amid nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
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Kris Krane, president and co-founder of Mission’s parent company 4Front Ventures, told Cannabis Business Times in June that it appeared to be a planned attack, as security footage captured several cars pulling up to the store at one time. Thirty to 40 people used crowbars and baseball bats to smash windows and doors to break into the South Chicago dispensary, Krane said.
In a follow-up interview with Cannabis Business Times, Krane says there weren’t many surprises as they worked to repair damages with contractors and construction crews, replace lost inventory and reopen the medical and adult-use store. But the process took time, especially replacing custom-built components like the security doors. They also made upgrades throughout, he says, adding “multiple layers of security.”
Krane also commended city and state officials for being responsive during the inspection process, and inspectors for being clear and straightforward with recommendations.
“We work in a lot of states, and trying to go through an inspection process in many states is a challenging process,” Krane says. (Mission operates stores in Massachusetts, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Maryland, as well as Illinois.) “It takes forever to get somebody out there, inspectors come through and can be adversarial in some cases, and getting responses from state can be challenging in some cases. But [in Chicago and Illinois,] the city and state were a pleasure to work with. Not to say they rubber stamped us, but they were really responsive and got back to us quickly.”
Once known as the “South Shore” store, Mission unveiled a name change during its reopening celebration, as well, to reflect more accurately its location in the South Chicago neighborhood.
“We were listening to the community. We had people who took offense to [the South Shore name] and it wasn’t meant to be offensive,” Krane says. “We wanted to show we are committed to the South Chicago community and to this commercial corridor on Commercial Avenue.”
This photograph taken during the clean up efforts at Mission dispensary in Chicago has been enlarged and will be prominently displayed in the South Chicago store. Photo courtesy of Mission.
Mission continued to pay “a substantial portion” of its nearly 50 employees’ salaries and pay while the store was closed for repairs, Krane says.
“We thought it was really important to make sure that these folks stayed paid, particularly with everything going on right now with unemployment and with coronavirus … and the fact they were put through a difficult time with the break-in itself,” Krane says, adding that only one staff member left but for unrelated reasons. “We wanted folks back. … Some of them would have been put in pretty dire hardship. Even though this was not something covered by insurance, so it was a financial hit for the company, we felt it was the right thing to do to make sure these folks continued to get paid during this down time. And thankfully, we were rewarded by not losing any employees.”
Local and state elected officials joined the celebration July 31, and Krane says the CEO of a nearby dispensary sent him a note to wish him well on the reopening.
“It was really heartwarming to see the city and the state treating us as an important member of the business community and as an important element of the rebuilding of the community that has been so devastated by break-ins and looting,” Krane says, adding that some businesses, especially locally owned companies, are still boarded up and have not reopened. “We’ve received well wishes from folks throughout the industry when the store was hit. We had offers from folks to make sure we had product available when we opened. Some even offered [product] on consignment or discounted rates to make sure we’re back up and running.”
Customers showed up on opening day, too. Although Mission has been operating primarily with an online-only ordering system during the coronavirus pandemic, the company allowed customers to purchase products in the store over the weekend. Customers were required to wear a mask, and the Mission team monitored lines to be sure people were adhering to social distancing policies. At times, the wait was about an hour the first day of sales.
“By and large it was pretty festive. A lot of people came up and said, ‘I’m glad you’re back,’” Krane says. “There were a lot of people who hadn’t been served for a while, and they may not be familiar with our online menu, so we wanted to be able to serve everybody we could [opening weekend]. …We also had a taco truck set up and gave out free tacos.”
Krane says although supply continues to be a challenge in Illinois, especially for operations that are not vertically integrated, he’s hopeful that as cultivators scale up and more dispensaries come online, more progress will be made. In July, the state recorded another record month for sales, with $61 million in the adult-use market alone, up 28% from the June’s $47.6 million.
“The [sales] numbers so far have been terrific,” Krane says. “We think that legalization has proven itself to be successful. We’re starting to see the first evidence that legal cannabis may be somewhat recession proof.”