LOGAN SQUARE — A dispensary from a Black- and Latina-led ownership team could take over a vacant storefront in Logan Square.
Owners of KWB 1, LLC want to open the dispensary at 2810 W. Fullerton Ave., an old doctor’s office that’s been vacant since at least 2020. Representatives for the company filed a special-use application with the Zoning Board of Appeals Oct. 5, records show.
The building is about two and a half blocks from Ascend’s Logan Square location, formerly MOCA, 2367 N. Milwaukee Ave. It’s also about 10 blocks from Grasshopper Club, the city’s first Black-owned dispensary inside the old Logan Square Trust & Savings Bank building, 2551 N. Milwaukee Ave.
While state law bars certain cannabis shops from being within 1,500 feet of each other, dispensaries with social equity licenses can set up within 1,500 feet of shops without social equity licenses, according to the city’s Cannabis Zoning Ordinance. Ascend is not a minority-owned company.
KWB 1’s ownership is a three-person team — two Black men and one Latina woman — with experience in customer service and the cannabis industry, said John Fritchey, a former Cook County commissioner, political analyst and consultant for the owners.
The team is Kenneth Bell, a senior, veteran and former Chicago police officer; Janessa Williams, an accountant and member of the Human Relations Commission in downstate Normal; and Craig Brown, a Chicago resident and cannabis dispensary agent expert who has helped open dispensaries in California. Brown also received an expungement under Illinois law for a minor cannabis offense, according to proposal documents.
KWB 1 received two social equity adult use cannabis licenses from the state lottery in 2022, part of a process to usher more people of color and people harmed by the War on Drugs into the burgeoning, but mostly white, legal weed business.
The team has no direct ties to Logan Square, but two live in Chicago and saw an opportunity to advance the social equity of the cannabis industry in an ideal community and building, Fritchey said.
They chose the Fullerton storefront because of its proximity to public transit, the building’s appropriate zoning qualifications and the neighborhood’s demographics, he said.
“This was kind of a convergence where you had people who are [passionate] about the industry, have a proven track record in the industry and who found a piece of property in a community that they thought was ideal to create the type of experience they want to do,” Fritchey said.
Unlike other Chicago dispensaries, the owners hope to keep the shop locally owned and not merge with a corporate cannabis company, Fritchey said. If the dispensary is approved, the owners plan to buy the building to further invest in the community and showcase local artwork on the walls.
“I don’t know that anything can show that you’re in this for the long haul more than the owners wanting to purchase the building,” he said.
The dispensary would sell dried cannabis, edibles, concentrates and topicals, and it would be open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, though the hours are not yet final, Fritchey said. Business owners also aim to hire locally with at least 20 cannabis professionals, according to the proposal.
Having a senior-only shopping hour from 8-9 a.m. is also a possibility, Fritchey said. The dispensary would also be ADA-accessible, and the company would add security cameras to increase safety along the corridor, he said.
Because the Fullerton business strip is already zoned for commercial use, a zoning change is not required for the space.
Per city regulations, the owners must host a community meeting before a dispensary can get a special-use license and open. The applicants held a meeting at the end of October, said Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st).
The majority who attended were in support of the business, Fritchey said. One person asked about parking, but there is no designated customer parking for the proposal as the owners expect most people to bike, walk or take public transit to the store, he said.
Nicholas Zettel, chief of staff for La Spata, said the ward office is aware of at least one neighbor who opposes the dispensary and has received other feedback for improving the proposal.
“We will continue to listen to our residents and assist anyone who wishes to submit a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Zettel said in an email.
Pretty Cool Ice Cream, 2353 N. California Ave., sits kitty corner to the proposed dispensary. Owner Dana Salls Cree and employee Dessie Orear welcome the dispensary, and they think it can benefit the business corridor, increase foot traffic in the area and boost their own business too, they said.
With two other dispensaries in the area and the booming industry, they don’t see a problem with another one joining the mix, they said.
“It’s now the same as, nobody would mind a wine shop,” Salls Cree said.
The ice cream bar often sees customers walk in with bags from Ascend, so having a closer dispensary could bring in more business for Pretty Cool Ice Cream and provide more options, they said.
“People have the munchies. As long as they’re adults, we welcome that,” said Orear, who lives a few blocks away.
Should the dispensary win approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, the owners would gut rehab the interior building and renovate the exterior, Fritchey said.
Fritchey is finalizing documents to send to the city after the meeting and anticipates the owners could get a hearing early next year, he said. If approved, the dispensary could open in the first half of 2024, Fritchey said.
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