By Allison Corneau The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Caroline Pineau's new marijuana shop called "Stem" offers products including cannabis-infused chocolate bars and tins of pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes.
Caroline Pineau's big day finally arrived.
The local woman who struggled to convince residents and city leaders about the merits of her marijuana sales shop saw the downtown business open its doors Saturday. She welcomed customers, but to pick up items at the shop entrance only due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Pineau's shop -- called Stem and located in the heart of downtown at 124 Washington St. -- took online orders in advance. It opened for business at 11 a.m. following a ribbon-cutting event with the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.
"We knew it was going to be a long process, and it was, but we're so excited to open and looking toward the future," Pineau said. "We're excited to create a new source of revenue for the City of Haverhill, create new jobs and create new cannabis options for people in Haverhill and the surrounding area."
Pineau's business continues a trend across the state and region, after Massachusetts voters in 2016 approved the retail sale of marijuana.
In the Merrimack Valley, Haverhill has become the center of the trend. In addition to Stem, the city has granted special permits to three other marijuana shops that have not yet opened: CNA Stores on River Street, Mellow Fellows on Amesbury Road, and Full Harvest Moonz off Route 125 next to the Plaistow line. A fifth shop, Frosty Nug, has been proposed for Ward Hill.
State relaxes pot rules Unlike liquor stores that have remained open under Gov. Charlie Baker's coronavirus rules, retail marijuana shops had to remain closed until Memorial Day, when a new phase of business openings began. The Stem shop joins stores in Salisbury and Amesbury run by the Alternative Therapies Group as the only pot shops operating in the area.
Pineau has overcome legal challenges by owners of neighboring downtown properties. They complained a pot shop would be bad for the area, which has experienced an economic revival in recent years.
Saturday's Stem ribbon-cutting was attended by Greater Haverhill Chamber President Dougan Sherwood, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, state Rep. Andy Vargas, Haverhill City Council President Melinda Barrett and City Council Vice President Colin LePage.
Sherwood was quick to praise Pineau's business savvy.
"Caroline has shown incredible determination, toughness, patience, resilience -- all the things you find in extraordinary people and incredible entrepreneurs," Sherwood said. "This is going to be a great thing for the city -- she'll be bringing jobs and tax income to Haverhill -- and I'm so pleased for her that this day has finally come. She's become an inspiration and sets a great example as a female business owner in Haverhill."
Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, who had a hand in approving Pineau's final license from the state, also attended the Stem shop opening.
"It was great to see a small, local, woman-owned business downtown surrounded by its community supporters," Title said. "It was great to see the City Council president and state senator alongside the founder. It takes tenacity and teamwork at all levels to see small cannabis businesses succeed, and it was not lost on me that they were all women."
Stem's first official shopper was Will Luzier, who came to Haverhill from Allston to pick up several items, including a chocolate bar and a tin of pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes.
"It is an honor to have worked with Stem throughout the licensing process and to be their first customer," said Luzier, who is also a consultant for the shop. "The legalization effort in Massachusetts focused on the disparities that communities had suffered from the war on drugs. Caroline is bringing economic vitalization and much needed revenue to the city."
Stem's product line includes smokeable cannabis flowers, edibles, concentrates, oral tinctures or liquids, and topicals, Pineau said. Each customer is allowed by law to purchase up to 1 ounce in dry flower or its equivalent per day, and the store accepts only cash or debit cards.
City controls customer flow According to Pineau's special permit from the city, there will be a limit of 20 appointments per hour for the first three days the shop is open. After that period, the appointment schedule will be reviewed by city officials for possible adjustments.
Due to coronavirus-related restrictions on retail shops, curbside pickup is the only method of shopping allowed during the governor's current phase of reopening. In the case of Pineau's shop, the curbside pickup method actually involves customers going into an area at the entrance to the business.
Customers are asked to show up for their appointments wearing masks, and then wait in a socially distanced line outside the shop. They show their ID and proof of appointment to security staff at the door before being allowed into the shop's front vestibule to complete their purchase. Masks must be worn at all times.
Due to the Stem shop's special permit restrictions, all customers must first book an appointment online at StemHaverhill.com. Customers then place their orders online and are alerted via email when their order is ready to be picked up. Online ordering is available only during business hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Pineau said.
Pineau's husband, Adam, serves as the company's director of operations. The couple, who live in Haverhill with their 3-year-old daughter, Charlie, hired 20 employees for the shop, 75% of whom live in Haverhill. Luzier joins Stem as its compliance consultant, while Jim Borghesani acts as communications director.
Customers who shopped Saturday were satisfied with their purchases and said Stem will fit into the city well.
Patrick O'Connor ordered a S'mores chocolate bar, blue raspberry fruit chews and hybrid strain pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes online from Stem after hearing about the shop from a friend. O'Connor drove from Newton, Massachusetts, Saturday for his noon appointment to pick up his order.
"It's great to have a shop opening in Haverhill," O'Connor said. "Haverhill has one of the more social scenes in the Merrimack Valley, so I think it fills a need and fits right in with the atmosphere and culture that downtown Haverhill has cultivated over the years. The opening comes at a great time.
With so much stress and uncertainty in today's world, everyone could use a little something to help them relax and reduce the anxieties of the current global situation."
Wearing a mask bearing the image of colorful marijuana leaves, Mike Crawford picked up a pack of pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes at the shop.
"I was the third customer," said Crawford, who lives in Marblehead and hosts a cannabis-themed podcast called The Young Jurks. "I'm happy for Haverhill, for Stem and for Caroline."
Stem's Saturday opening was successful despite a legal battle between Pineau and abutters Lloyd Jennings, who is a contractor; Realtor Brad Brooks; and Stavros Dimakis, owner of Mark's Deli. They have filed lawsuits against Pineau, appealing the special permit granted to her by the city and arguing that her shop will hurt the integrity of the downtown business district.
POT SHOP RULES -- Limited to curbside pick-up during the coronavirus crisis -- Appointments are required, no walk-ins -- All customers must wear a mask -- Customers must show ID and proof of appointment/order ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.