The dispensary landscape is still peppered with small operations that founded the industry, but Curaleaf has staked out a lot of territory the past few months, rivaling only Harvest’s real estate. Both dispensary companies have businesses in several states.
Curaleaf most recently acquired Midtown Roots in central Phoenix. Steve Cottrell, founder of Midtown Roots, has taken over as Curaleaf’s Arizona president, but he wouldn’t discuss other aspects of the deal.
Cottrell got his start in the Arizona cannabis industry with a testing firm called AZ Med Testing back in 2010, before the first dispensaries even opened. He and his partner, who handled the science while he handled the business, both had two jobs at the time, before the industry picked up.
“We really just beat the pavement out of passion for the industry and passion for the medicine,” he said.
He sold the company to his partner in 2014 and took over management of an Oro Valley dispensary that had been operating since 2012. Last year, he moved that company to 2918 North Central Avenue, where the new Curaleaf Midtown still resides.
Midtown Roots opened a wellness center attached to the dispensary earlier this year, offering yoga sessions hosted by Medicated Mavens, meditation and cooking classes, bingo, and cannabis education sessions with doctors including oncologists from Banner Health.
“We had to lay our roots in the ground in midtown before we were able to get approval,” Cottrell said. “We had to go out and really speak to the community and tell them why Midtown Roots is going to be a good fit for the community.”
The wellness center donates a portion of the proceeds from events to local charities chosen by employees, like The Change Society, a volunteer group, and local animal shelters. Cottrell himself has helped pack paper-bag lunches.
“Our employees are the ones on the ground really out there presenting the compassionate face of midtown and how we help the community,” he said.
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The dispensary’s community service made a difference in public perception, according to Cottrell. When Midtown Roots applied for zoning, neighborhoods like the Willo District and Encanto provided letters of support, he said.
“We didn’t get any opposition coming in,” he said, “with an exception from our competition.”
Several competitors like Encanto Green Cross, Nature’s Medicine and Urban Greenhouse operate nearby, just west of Interstate 17, but Midtown Roots has a prime spot with its central location north of downtown.
It’s the only dispensary in the state on a light-rail route, Cottrell said, adding that about 7,000 people per day pass through the light-rail station near the store.
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Based out of Boston, Massachusetts, Curaleaf first showed up in Arizona in September, rebranding four Swell Farmacy dispensaries. Midtown Roots is its fifth acquisition in the state. A sixth dispensary currently under construction on the southwest side of the Valley, on 83rd Avenue, will open in spring.
Curaleaf holds licenses in Oregon, Nevada, and Florida, as well as most of New England. Soon, the company will add California and Pennsylvania to the list. With more than 30 dispensaries, and more on the way, Curaleaf boasts itself as the largest cannabis retailer in the U.S.
Curaleaf Midtown had its grand opening December 7 but will still offer a buy-one-get-one-free deal to all new patients, even if you’ve stopped by Midtown Roots before.
(Correction: Cottrell said later that 7,000 people a day pass through the light-rail station, not through the store.)