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Canalside Chronicles

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Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

A budding business

Finger Lakes Cannabis Company on Railroad Street in Victor, N.Y. (Photo credit: Ryan Hermenet)

People that want to open a marijuana dispensary in New York State have faced many obstacles getting started. Legislation is regularly being ratified and lawsuits have put a temporary halt to license issuing. Despite these challenges, some business owners have found their own way to follow their passion in the cannabis industry.

Tim Hay and Mark Byassee were among many that saw the potential in legal recreational marijuana. When they were contacted by Canterra, a delivery-service dispensary in the Buffalo region, about opening the FLX Cannabis Co. growers’ showcase in Victor three years ago, the duo knew it was the right decision.

“We wanted to get into this industry and we wanted to do it right,” Byassee said. “We both went through life changing medical events, plus COVID, and that left us wanting to spend the rest of our lives doing something we love. We’re cannabis enthusiasts”.

Growers’ showcases are the temporary solution to the many factors that may prevent someone from being able to open a dispensary. They’re in partnership with an already-established dispensary, whereas dispensaries operate as their own individual business.

These businesses have allowed growers’ to get their back-stock product onto shelves and prospective business owners to gain experience working in the industry.

“We’ve learned a lot. We initially put in our card dispensary application. Once it became clear that the lawsuits were going to be dragging on, we decided to apply for general dispensary licensing, and then Canterra came in. They using our brand, our website, and our property. They even hire our people,” Byassee said.

Cannabis vapes and accessories sold at FLX Cannabis Co. (Photo credit: Ryan Hermenet)

The flexibility that the growers’ showcase initiative offers allows owners Hay and Byassee to focus on building their image and making themselves known in the Victor community.

“It took us a good seven to eight months of meeting with the village board to explain our visions. We voiced wanting to do what’s right for the community and wanting to do it safely. Once they learned about us, they asked us to put a pop-up tent at the Victor Hometown Days festival. Since then, it’s gone great,” Byassee said.

While convincing village officials to invest in their vision, Byassee and store manager Chelsea Reinhart worked to introduce cannabis to the people that live in their community. Although many people who were hesitant to trust it at first, Reinhart and her team made customer comfortability in their showcase the primary goal.

“It’s not like you’re walking into a stranger’s house to buy weed that they tell you little or nothing about,” Reinhart said. “We’re trying to make it so that people can come in who have smoked for years and know what they want, and also people who have never done it, who want to try it for the first time, and we can help ease their nerves”.

The variety of marijuana products offered at FLX Cannabis Co. (Photo credit: Ryan Hermenet)

Byassee and the staff at FLX Cannabis Co. see people of all ages and backgrounds coming in to experience recreational marijuana.

“There are housewives, grandmas and people that are really apprehensive about marijuana that come in since it’s brand new to them. It’s a lot of people are intimidated and scared. They come in and our team does a great job of putting them at ease, making it a comfortable and educational experience,” Byassee said.

Hay and Byassee found inspiration for their growers’ showcase in dispensaries across the country. They wanted to embody an approachable atmosphere and see what goes into running a business that sells legal cannabis.

“We went to Colorado, Nevada, Michigan, Maine, and Massachusetts and saw how their dispensaries operated. The ones we liked was where it didn’t feel like you were walking into a vape store. The experience was what mattered most,” Byassee said.

FLX Cannabis Co.’s edible cannabis products (Photo credit: Ryan Hermenet)

With village officials and residents on-board with Hay and Byassee’s passion, FLX Cannabis Co. has been well-received in the community. Although this is the case, there are still some challenges the co-owners and management are facing.

New York officials with the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) introduced the growers’ showcase initiative with the understanding that they would operate as temporary businesses. Licensing for these showcases is expected to expire once dispensary licensing becomes more accessible, or once an applicant is approved for licensing to permanently operate.

Byassee hopes that FLX Cannabis Co. can become a dispensary since it promises more financial security.

“The grower showcases are not very profitable. The state puts limits on how much you can sell and on your profit margins,” Byassee said. “Once we become fully licensed, we’ll be able grow and operate more independently”.

Another issue stems from their original business model and branding. Before operating as a growers’ showcase, Byassee operated his storefront as a health and wellness gift shop. They sold CBD products, accessories and more. Because of state restrictions on merchandise in growers’ showcases, many of these products can no longer be sold in the store.

“New York state sort of threw an obstacle in everything because when they created brand regulations. They said that we can only sell merchandise that’s within the FLX Cannabis Co. brand. So a lot of the jewelry and clothing that we did have at the time was not our brand,” Byassee said.

FLX Cannabis Co. merchandise sold in their store (Photo credit: Ryan Hermenet)

While working through some of these obstacles however, Byassee and Reinhart have noticed a good problem that they have: too much business.

“People like us,” Reinhart said. “Then we have to ask how much we want to grow and how much do we want to invest. Do we want to get too deep into this? Because we may pivot and have to downsize again. It’s been a lot of figuring out how to gauge ourselves on what to do and what to spend based on all of the uncertainty with marijuana laws”.

With a lot left to navigate as Hay and Byassee look to expand their budding business to new horizons, FLX Cannabis Co. continues to be a destination for New Yorkers celebrating all that recreational marijuana has to offer.

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