AYER – Nearly two years after they first bought the building at 38 Littleton Road, the father-son duo of John and Mark Hillier finally saw their dream in action as Gage Cannabis Company officially opened its doors on Monday.
The town’s first-ever marijuana retail store is a near 12,000-foot building offering everything from marijuana flowers, vaporizer cartridges and smoking bowls to purchase.
The store is also stocked with employees willing and able to answer questions for customers exploring cannabis for the first time or frequent users looking to see what the store provides.
“It’s been a long-time coming but we’re happy to be here,” Mr. Hillier said at the store Monday. “We wanted to present a destination that could be an experience for people. This is a whole new opportunity for the general public as we’ve provided education and a comfort level to heighten quality of life. It’s the right product for pretty much everybody.”
Nearly two dozen customers milled about the store when a Nashoba Valley Voice reporter visited. None, however, agreed to be interviewed.
Mr. Hillier noted that the store will be open for the public from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. A dozen employees will be inside the store, along with five security guards and two traffic control officers courtesy of the Ayer Police Department.
He added that, since an increased traffic flow was a concern amongss local residents in the store’s early development, there’s an overflow parking lot down the street from the store adding 75 more parking spots to the 55 in front of the building.
Those entering the store first waited outside before coming first into the security vestibule, where patrons will have to present a government-issued ID proving that they’re over 21-years-old.
Once they’re cleared, guests will enter the store to be greeted by a dispensing agent and presented with the store’s menu. Though not exactly for a dinner order, despite the building formerly housing the Mango Grill restaurant, Gage Cannabis’s menu contains 14 pages of product and information for guests to peruse through as they sit in the waiting area to the right of the entrance.
One of those dispensing agents is Erica Lucier, who said she was given a recommendation for the position from a friend who worked at Central Ave. Compassionate Care, the medical marijuana dispensary in Ayer also owned by the Hillier duo.
“I went to Worcester State University for environmental science so I liked how the cannabis industry is a cross-section of environmental science and health,” Lucier said.
Mark Hillier said the waiting area, which also features some of the store’s flowers and products from other cannabis vendors, is meant for customers not only to see the merchandise available but also interact with the dispensing agents and learn more.
“It’s a lot to digest,” he added. “There are a lot of methods of administration so it could take a little bit of time to take in.”
According to Mr. Hillier, the staff went through three weeks of cannabis education training before the opening of the store. Some staffers are well-versed in the cannabis industry, including Assistant Dispensary Manager Genesis Pepper.
“I’ve been in the industry for quite a while but this is the first time I’ve been devoted to pushing the buck, so it’s cool to see people doing this the right way,” Pepper said. “There are a lot of unconfirmed questions and facts out there about cannabis that I don’t want to devalue, but re-educate people instead. We try to make everyone feel comfortable with cannabis.”
Those who feel that they know what they want right from the front door can simply walk to the center of the store at the checkout counter to make a purchase. Patrons who are even more experienced and proactive can also visit gagecannabisco.com to purchase product online and pick it up at the express pick-up counter at the left of the store.
Mr. Hillier said that Gage Cannabis hasn’t received major push back from the public, noting how “the town and state has been very good” to the store.
“There’s a lot of great energy here, very peaceful,” he added while overlooking the booming store. “Cannabis really does unite all people.”