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Dispensary 33, Chicago’s Only Indie Pot Shop, Sold To Florida-based Ayr Wellness

A multi-state cannabis company will buy Dispensary 33's West Loop and Andersonville shops for $55 million.

Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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ANDERSONVILLE — A Florida-based cannabis company is buying Dispensary 33, ending a run of local ownership for Chicago’s only independent pot shop.

Ayr Wellness announced Monday it has reached a deal to buy Dispensary 33’s two Chicago dispensaries for $55 million. The acquisition is part of Miami-based Ayr’s rapid expansion in Illinois, where recreational cannabis was legalized in 2020.

Ayr, which operates cannabis grow facilities and dispensaries in multiple states, has also purchased two dispensaries in downstate Quincy and has plans to open a shop in Bloomington, the company said in a release. The Sun-Times first reported the news of Dispensary 33’s sale.

The purchase of Dispensary 33 gives Ayr “presence in two of Chicago’s most desirable neighborhoods,” Andersonville and the West Loop, company CEO Jonathan Sandelman said in a statement.

“In any market where we operate, our goal is to develop scale and meaningful presence,” Sandelman said. “We will continue to seek opportunities to expand in Illinois.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Dispensary33 at 5001 N. Clark St. in Andersonville.

Before the sale, the Andersonville-based cannabis company was the last remaining dispensary with independent ownership after Rogers Park’s Green Gate Chicago was acquired by pot giant Verano earlier this year.

Dispensary 33 opened as a medical shop in 2015, recording the city’s first legal cannabis sale that year. The dispensary also recorded the first legal sale in the state’s history when recreational cannabis was legalized Jan. 1, 2020.

It has since grown to become one of the city’s biggest and most influential pot companies.

With Illinois’ legal cannabis business booming, Dispensary 33 this year opened a second shop at 1152 W. Randolph St. The company is also working to expand into the two neighboring storefronts at its flagship location at 5001 N. Clark St.

RELATED: In Rush To Open Pot Shops In West Loop, This Dispensary Takes Alderman’s Advice — And Hires A Black Partner

Dispensary 33 and its founder, Bryan Zises, also have ties to five cannabis companies that won permits to open pot shops in Chicago.

Zises will retain his minority owner stake in those companies and will use cash from the sale of Dispensary 33 to boost those start-ups, he said in an interview.

Zises said he sold Dispensary 33 only after finding a company that matches the importance he places on staff empowerment and providing the highest quality product.

“We’d been approached by almost everybody,” he said. “Leadership is knowing when to get out of the way and empower people to do good things. That’s what’s going to happen to Dispensary 33.”

Despite selling the last remaining independently owned dispensary in Chicago, Zises said the future of mom-and-pop pot shops in the city is bright. The sale of Dispensary 33 will help ensure that, he said.

“Yes, they can and they will,” Zises said when asked if independent dispensaries can thrive in Chicago. “This helps support the groups that we have been able to incubate. I’m excited to help make that happen.”

Ayr Wellness operates cannabis facilities in eight states including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona and Nevada.

The company on Monday also announced a new branding strategy, with plans to convert its existing 65 dispensaries nationwide to the “Ayr” brand starting early next year. No decision has been made on the future of Dispensary 33’s branding, a spokesperson for Ayr said.

“All current stores will be rebranded as Ayr stores beginning next year, but given that Dispensary 33 is a brand new acquisition and has such strong local roots, we will be evaluating this separately,” the spokesperson said.

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