The recreational marijuana dispensary had been in the works for four years before its grand opening Thursday.
ROCKLAND — The South Shore’s first recreational marijuana dispensary held its grand opening in Rockland Thursday afternoon after a soft opening weeks earlier.
CannaVana owner Mario Chiuccariello, of Winchester, said the opening has been four years in the works. His original vision was for a medical marijuana dispensary, but those plans changed when Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana.
Chiuccariello said the dispensary had a soft opening on July 30 attended by family, friends and Rockland residents before the grand opening on Thursday.
He said business has been consistent with the daily number of customers averaging 225, but he expects that to increase within the next month to 600 to 1,000, and then plateau, at least until another dispensary opens in Rockland.
So far the longest line has been 10 people, although 50 percent of the sales are curbside pickup, with orders coming in from the company’s website.
He said the soft opening has allowed himself and the staff to work out the kinks in the system without creating a backup or too much delay for the customers. The biggest bottleneck has been the ID check process and he turned away a few customers with identification cards that expired in March before checking with the police department that the cards can be accepted, as he said.
“We’ve had some hiccups at the point of sale, and with our internet providers,” he said.
Internet connectivity problems led Chiuccariello to get service from both major providers in Rockland, Comcast and Verizon, but bandwidth issues remain. The business is cash or debit only and Chiuccariello said he has not run into coin shortage issues yet, which have been reported across the country, but he said he would not be surprised if they crop up. Although he would like to make prices even, to eliminate change, the state sales tax prevents him from being able to.
Chiuccariello ran an auto repair shop before he decided to open a dispensary and there learned how important the customer experience is, something he said he has tried to bring to the dispensary experience.
His wife, Ilda Chiuccariello, said since the shop opened, her children have barely seen their father, who leaves before 7 a.m. and comes in as late as 11 p.m. every day. She hopes, as the shop is open longer, her husband will not have to stay as late.
Mario Chiuccariello said the three months during the pandemic, before the first shipment arrived, were great because he got to spend the whole time with his children.
Ilda and Mario Chiuccariello said it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that after four years of work, their dispensary is finally open.
One of the first customers was Michaela Robbins, of Pembroke, who also just started at the store as a bud tender. Until the coronavirus pandemic, she was a massage therapist, but had to close her business. She said it is not the same, but she still gets to work with people.
The closest recreational shops are in Brockton and Plymouth. Quincy has a medical marijuana dispensary, but marijuana stores of all stripes have been slow to come to the South Shore. One medical marijuana dispensary is working its way through the special permit in process in Hull, while another combination grow house, dispensary and lab is struggling to even enter into negotiations with the town after a contentious board of selectmen hearing.
The business should be turning a profit within six months, assuming sales pick up, Mario Chiuccariello said. To bolster sales, he bought a billboard advertisement on Route 3.
Customer George Nedder, of Boston, worked with Chiuccariello when he was a mechanic. He said he liked the facility and the fact that he can buy edibles because he no longer smokes. He bought a salve for back pain, a tincture to help him sleep and some gummies.
“I like to catch a buzz, and not be a zombie, so I got some gummy bears,” Nedder said.
Reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite can be reached at email@example.com.