The Pot Gold Rush, Continued
New places from high school friends and a hedge fund
From the November, 2020 issue
"It's a flower shop again," jokes Marcus Hart, about cannabis store Information Entropy that he opened earlier this year with Drew Hutton. The former church once housed Ken Nielsen's Flowers. Most recently it was a daycare center. But now, cannabis products are sold at the high-profile location on Broadway and Plymouth Rd. The pot is sourced from Hutton's farm in DeTour at the easternmost tip of the mainland U.P.
"We've been best friends since we were about thirteen," says Hutton. "We met at Top of the Park, back when it was still in the parking structure." He went to Huron High, and Hart went to Pioneer. "Definitely, growing up in Ann Arbor, we smoked weed from a young age." Later, they both got caregiver cards and grew pot, though it was "more of a hobby," he says. Then, in 2017, he visited Hart in Chicago, "He said, 'Hey, they're about to legalize cannabis in Michigan.' So we started working on it together and never really looked back."
Hutton, who has a degree in mathematics and economics from U-M, says the name of the business comes from a concept created by U-M mathematician Claude Shannon, who's known as the father of information theory. "To me it means the probability that a signal has meaning--and for us, that signal is our company."
Hutton plans to live in the U.P. for another year to oversee the hydroponic growing operation on the eighty-acre property. He chose the isolated spot "because we wanted to grow outdoors in the future, and DeTour is one of the first municipalities that were flexible enough" to allow for that. Meantime, Hart manages Ann Arbor operations.
Ann Arborites "appreciate quality more than a lot of other places," Hutton says. "I grew up going to Zingerman's, even though the sandwiches there are a little expensive at times. If we could become the Zingerman's of weed in our area, that's kind of our goal. It's not to be the biggest ...
we just want to be the best at what we do."
Hutton says almost 25 percent of their business is in pre-rolls, but fittingly, flowers remain their number one seller.
Information Entropy, 1115 Broadway, (734) 929-4207. Daily 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Curbside pickup available. informationentropy.com
Apothecare also grows its own. "We're offering the most sustainable, clean cannabis products in the state of Michigan," asserts Paul Hoskin, one of three partners in the business in Plymouth Road Plaza. Its certified organic cannabis is sourced from its four-acre property in Jackson.
Hoskin says about a quarter of their Jackson crop is sold at Apothecare and the rest to other retailers. Ann Arbor is a "market that appreciates organic cannabis," he says. "It not only smells better, but it tastes better, it's cleaner, it's a more potent medicine."
Hoskin, Jack Edelstein, and Louis Johnson opened Apothecare's medical marijuana dispensary in January in a second-floor suite of the same building while they renovated the lower level for recreational sales. By the time the pandemic hit in March, they'd received an adult-use license, but construction on the retail space had stalled. Because cannabis is deemed essential, Apothecare continued to sell via curbside pickup and delivery. The partners plan to open the retail sales floor in November. Meantime, business has been brisk.
"It's obviously a very stressful time for a lot of people," Hoskin says. "People have a lot of time right now ... There's a lot of different ways to cope with stress and time. Cannabis is one of those ways."
Apothecare sells about a dozen cultivars, including smokable flowers with product names like Gorilla Glue, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Blue Mason. "The taste, the smell, the hue" is what makes each of them unique, Hoskin explains. They've partnered with a processing facility to make edibles, vape cards, and concentrates. "All the edibles are vegan, gluten-free, pectin-based gummies."
Apothecare, 2793 Plymouth Rd. (Plymouth Road Plaza), Ste. K, (734) 800-2004, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (online or phone orders for curbside pickup and delivery; retail store opening planned for mid- to late November), apothecareannarbor.com
Michigan Supply & Provisions opened on W. Stadium in August. It also is part of an integrated grow-sale operation, but this one is on a national scale: it's owned by Ascend Wellness Holdings, which newcannabisventures.com described last year as the "largest remaining private American cannabis operator."
Ascend gained its first foothold in Michigan with the acquisition of a dispensary in Morenci, near the Ohio border. "Morenci was an ideal location for us mainly because the town is a 'good partner,' is easy to work with, and understands the value of recreational cannabis," writes company chief strategy officer Frank Perullo.
A high-powered Boston public affairs and government relations consultant, Perullo cofounded Ascend with Abner Kurtin--who, the website says, "comes from the hedge fund space." At that point, they'd already raised $85 million and were looking toward a potential public offering.
Ascend's website lists nineteen locations open or under development in five states, operating under four different brands. Ann Arbor is one of seven in Michigan. Its online menu includes edibles (Detroit Fudge Co. brownie, $25), flower (Banger Mac, $15/gram), resin cartridges (AiroPro Bubba Kush, $40/.5 gram), and pre-rolls (Common Citizen Gelato 5-pack, $35).
Michigan Supply & Provisions, 2019 W. Stadium Blvd. Daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m. michigansandp.com
[Originally published in November, 2020.]
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