SHIRLEY — BoomX Cannabis Co., the town’s first recreational marijuana dispensary, is a family affair for the Cardillos.
Located at 114 Lancaster Road in a property that boasts 45,000 square feet of space, the business is three years in the making for the Cardillo family. With a dynamic new name, the business was originally called “Thrive” when it was first proposed. A ribbon cutting was held Tuesday morning and “soft opening” was held not long before that.
Anthony Cardillo, whose family owns and operates BoomX, as well as a construction company that’s been in business since 1948 credits his wife Katie with the company’s new name. In addition to her involvement with the business, Cardillo said his father, his brother and his wife, are also all part of the business.
“This was going to be a landscape yard,” Cardillo said of the former airport property his family purchased from the Florio family years ago.
The permit process started in 2016 and continued for about a year. However, issues arose that slowed things down and the family decided to scratch the original project. Other options were discussed including building a large, one story structure that could be sectioned off as business condos — something they even received a special permit for.
“The town didn’t love the idea … but they did want the old airport developed,” Cardillo said.
Then came changes that shifted their focus and opened the door to a cannabis business.
With cannabis cultivation and retail facilities legalized in Massachusetts and other states, it became less controversial, almost conventional. A new town zoning bylaw allowed for a dispensary to be built on the site.
At first, the Cardillos thought about selling or leasing the property for that purpose, he said, but when that didn’t gel, they decided to go for it themselves.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” and this is just a “different kind” of manufacturing and retail set-up, he said.
Cardillo acknowledged risks, some unique to this business. But once they’d agreed to take the plunge, they went all in. “We spared no expense,” he said, noting valuable help from the law firm they hired, which specializes in assisting cannabis start-ups.
The Cardillos entered into a Host Community Agreement, or HCA, with the town, navigated through the rigorous regulatory process set by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, or CCC, and the plan moved forward. Slowed some by the state-wide COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, it took three years to get here. But the building is now complete, landscaping and all. The interior is a work in progress.
Beyond the store, which is already serving customers, there was not a lot to see at first glance. Nothing green and growing, anyway. The two-story cultivation area is still a vast, open space, although a second-floor office area with expansive, front-facing windows and a wide-angle view is taking shape.
The rest is mostly empty, except for the store, a few downstairs offices and the locked vault where the packaged product — in various forms — is stored on shelves.
Cameras are tucked in corners in every room. There is video everywhere, Cardillo said, inside and out.
The retail operation works like a fulfillment center, only smaller and minus the robots.
When a customer places an order at one of the five stations in the store out front, the “budtender” there enters it on a computer screen, which lists each item, with cost, and keeps a running balance. The customer can add or delete items at any point. Once finalized, the information is forwarded to staffers in the backroom vault and they bring it out.
That way, bud tenders like Dominique Behrens and Elliot “Eli” Garcia, who were working that day, don’t leave their posts to fill orders but stay with the customer throughout the transaction. Besides a safety measure, the intent is to create a positive experience for customers, they said.
There are specific gram-limits on the amount of cannabis product a customer can buy on any given day, including oils and edibles. Their purchases are packed into small black bags with handles, discreetly labeled with the BoomX logo.
Leading the way through the empty spaces slated to become “grow rooms,” Cardillo said it’s unclear right now how many, or how big they will be. And that, in turn, will determine the number of new hires the company will eventually need. For now, there are six to eight employees per shift.
Given the number of cannabis producers that have cropped up in New England over the last couple years, BoomX may not need to grow as much of their own cannabis as previously envisioned, he said. “When we started, we couldn’t get the product wholesale,” Cordillo said. Now, they can. And the business has become more competitive.
BoomX will offer a varied selection, Cardillo said. Budtenders know how to assist the customer and the effects of the two dominant strains — indica and sativa.
While some of the strains may sound foreign, Inventory Manager Sianna Bennett reels them off with aplomb. A culinary school graduated turned cannabis guru, she has mastered her field of expertise.
“I tell people those two are indicative for a newcomer,” she said. The percentage of THC is part of plant’s “terpene profile.” Chemical compounds it contains. A consumer, however, may shop more for effect than content.
For instance, there’s “linalool,” which is present in lavender and contributes to its aroma and relaxing properties. Some shoppers will go for taste, she said. Myrcene, for example, as in blueberries.
“All plants have terpenes,” she said. Some smell like hops, others, like tomatoes or various herbs.
Some of the selection process is trial and error, Cordillo adds. Customers may prefer different tastes. Fruity, zesty, citrus. The company website — boomxcannabis.com — offers guidance, with a cornucopia of products you can buy. For those 21 or older that is.
The menu includes pre-roll, vapes, tinctures, flower, beverages, edibles and concentrates. However, customers can only purchase at the dispensary with valid identification.
Bennett does not interact with customers. Instead, her job includes purchasing, establishing contacts with vendors and local growers, from the Berkshires to Newburyport. Some may have “social agendas,” she said, including employing former convicts, some of whom might have served prison time for using or selling the same product that’s legal in Massachusetts now.
At this point, BoomX doesn’t sell cannabis products wholesale, only retail, she said. That comes next, however, when the cultivation area gets going.
As a tour for press progressed, Cardillo and BoomX staff spoke about ongoing work, future plans and the product itself. It was clear there was a lot happening in the big, new building, with more to come.
Entering a side door where a receptionist in a protected cubicle signs in customers, checks ID’s and issues name tags, the visitors shared essentially the same experience customers do and were ushered into the retail area only after the routine was complete. Until then, the dispensary door was locked.
The retail space is an open, stunningly understated space with a modern, Scandinavian vibe: high ceiling, white walls, gleaming, polished-concrete floor and sleek, dark wood counters. There are five sales stations.
At one station, below the counter, a colorful array of hand-blown glass cannabis gear laid out in a jewel-box-like cube — pipes, vapes, etc. — makes an eye-catching display.
The most attention-grabbing touch is the wall art. A framed mural that a close look reveals as a computer-generated photo collage. It snapshots 75 years of Cordillo family history and takes up an entire wall. Done in muted colors, with tiny picture-squares that intersect and repeat, it’s called “digital wallpaper,” according to Steve, from Alpha Graphics, the firm that created it.
The display — featuring the BoomX logo as an overlay — was being pasted up during the tour. With the chandelier-light fixture that would center the space due to arrive later that day, Cardillo said the room was “about 95% complete.”
Summing up, Cardillo said it’s a “seed to sale” CCC-regulated operation. Everything is tested and labeled, with multiple parameters for selling the product.
Absent conventional advertising, how do they get the word out?
Noting that cannabis only started showing on state billboards recently, it can be a challenge, according to staffer Jasmin Saba-Farmer.
Cardillo agreed. “You need to be creative,” he said.
The name BoomX, for example, his wife Katie Cordillo’s brainchild. She’s in charge of publicity. Inspired by the boom on a company crane, she came up with an original name for the new firm and coined the phrase that appears on its website: “After decades of diggin’ we created a boom.”