Sitting in the demonstration room, they were slightly surprised at the number of customers coming in early Monday afternoon.
That flow has been a constant since Thrive Metropolis opened its doors at 1551 E. Fifth St. on May 5, 2021.
Thrive is owned by MariMed, a multi-state cannabis operator and publicly traded company headquartered in Norwood, Massachusetts. Its co-founder and CEO Jon Levine was in Metropolis on Monday, Jan. 9, as part of a southern Illinois store tour with chief communications officer Howard Schacter and Rosie Naumovski, general manager for MariMed Illinois.
Naumovski, along with her husband George, began developing the idea for Thrive in 2014. They started with medical cannabis stores in Harrisburg in March 2016 and in Anna in May 2016. They merged Thrive under the MariMed umbrella in 2019 and became the operators and overseers of Illinois market stores. The Harrisburg and Anna stores became their first adult use stores on Jan. 1, 2020. Their third location — an adult use only store — opened in Mt. Vernon in September 2020. MariMed plans to open a cultivation/kitchen facility in Mt. Vernon this year.
The Metropolis location opened on May 5, 2021, as Thrive’s fourth dispensary in southern Illinois.
“We had been looking for an area in the southern part which was in our district, and when Rosie and George brought me this location, I researched the tourism and the other things available in the area,” Levine said.
“I thought being adult use, this would be a great facility, and we could do a very nice store, which would be our pride and joy. This store is one of the larger ones in the state. I think it is comfortable and welcoming to the customer, and it’s conveniently located just off the highway.”
Depending on the day, Thrive Metropolis averages several hundred to over 1,000 customers daily.
“We were pleasantly surprised that Metropolis would be so busy,” Naumovski said. “Customers come from all over. We have our regular locals who enjoy shopping here. We have patients from Illinois who shop here. We have all age ranges 21 and older from all different demographics. We do see a lot of out-of-state people — people who are traveling through.”
Naumovski and Levine noted that while Kentucky and Tennessee customers are expected, “the biggest surprise is the amount of people from Georgia and the Carolinas. Those are the areas I wouldn’t expect,” Levine said. “We’re happy to be able to help bring tourism. It’s great to see where they’re coming from.”
Schacter noted that as a “public company, we don’t disclose sales at the state or individual store level.” However, in the almost eight months since it opened, Thrive Metropolis has contributed over $2.75 million in sales tax to Massac County. That figure consists of $1,249,475 in sales taxes to the county and $1,513,979 to the city; however, the city has an incentive agreement with Thrive to pay back 30% of what’s received from its sales tax portion for the first eight years of its operation, taking the city’s intake to $1,059,794.30 and the actual total to $2,309,269.30 in sales tax from July/August 2021 through December 2022.
According to Metropolis Mayor Don Canada, “those funds, after the reimbursement, are currently being used to offset the declining gaming revenue. We also used it to add to our public safety — we have added two additional firemen and two additional police officers. We also had the added expense of purchasing vehicles for the new officers. As funds grow, we would like to use revenue to continue to upgrade our infrastructure, equipment and various programs toward our senior citizens and our youth.”
Naumovski noted that “Thrive has a mission — we like to give back to the community and participate in events.”
While the overall “response has been really good, the community has been amazing to work with,” said Naumovski, who believes that has much to do with the company-wide emphasis on quality, safe, lab-tested products. “That’s the biggie right now — there are a lot of pop-up shops that aren’t licensed. You have to be very careful. All of our products are grown and produced in Illinois and they’re lab tested,” she said.
Adding to that product line will be items from the 33,000-square-foot craft grow facility in Mt. Vernon.
“The grow product will be distributed throughout the state, inclusively through our dispensaries,” Schacter said.
MariMed also operates in Massachusetts, Maryland and Delaware, and will open facilities in in Missouri and Ohio later this year.
For Illinois, Levine said MariMed “is concentrating on adding some more Thrives to the state, specifically to the mid to southern part of the state. We’ve built up a very nice relationship with the patients and consumers in the southern part of Illinois. Where I think many companies have ignored the southern part of the state, we have ‘thrived.’ That’s the good part of it. We’re also looking at the northern part, in the Chicago area. If we find the right location, we’ll make that big step into that area.”
When Thrive Metropolis first opened, Naumovski had several ideas for how to use the former car dealership building. Now, “we’re concentrating on what our specialties are,” Levine said.
“This store specifically, we’re trying to make sure we maintain good customer service, let the consumers know this store is here and is available for all of their cannabis needs and that when you come here, you’re going to get great customer service, knowledgeable care from the staff, with an understanding of how to educate you on the different products.
“This market is continually changing” he continued. “People keep bringing out new products, including ways to consume, and people have a lot of questions. It’s very important that our people in the stores are being willing to educate the consumer. Our concentration is to help educate our caregivers and make sure they’re fully aware of how to help the consumer. The Thrive name is recognized by the patients — they understand our customer service, and they expect to get good, quality selection in brands they know and like.”
And that education, Naumovski said, is key.
“We have a lot of people (where) this is their first time ever in a dispensary, so we get really excited and they’re excited. Ingesting edibles for the first time, you’ve got to be careful — you don’t want to get too much, you don’t want to have a bad experience. We provide a lot of educational material — making sure people understand how to ingest it, how to use it responsibly, to keep it away from children, to be responsible consumers,” she said.
“I think people feel privileged. They understand this is something that’s been a long time coming, and you’re not having to look over your shoulder if you want to purchase cannabis — you can come in here, feel safe, feel welcome and know you’re getting a quality product.
“It’s for all age ranges — young, old. They just come. They’re glad to be able to buy legal cannabis in a safe environment,” she said.