LEWISTON — The owners of JAR Cannabis Co. need more stock to open more stores, so they’re investing $3.18 million to turn warehouse space on Westminster Street into a recreational grow facility and eventual company headquarters.
Joel Pepin of Auburn, one of the three partners, said Wednesday that the size, zoning and utilities, as well as all three owners’ local connections, made the space a great choice.
“For us, the past couple of years, the company’s undergone tremendous growth,” Pepin said. “We’re really proud to be in the position that we’re in, certainly lucky to be doing this in Maine at a time adult use is launching, so it certainly is a culmination of being at the right place at the right time.”
The company started nearly 10 years ago with Pepin and Ryan Roy of Turner as small medical marijuana caregiver growers.
Four years ago, it opened an extraction lab in Auburn on Hotel Road. Two years ago, JAR opened storefronts in Windham and Newry and has eyes on two more, in South Portland and Portland, this year.
The two newest stores would open as adult use retail shops, Pepin said, and the first two will eventually switch from medical to adult use.
Cultivation sites in Gorham and Windham can’t grow enough to stock all four.
JAR has leased 50,000 square feet, or the entire top floor, at 75 Westminster St., the former home of an L.L.Bean manufacturing site.
The $3.18 million project will renovate roughly half of its leased space, Pepin said, building out offices, cultivation rooms, space for drying, trimming and packaging, locker rooms for staff and adding a high-precision HVAC and odor control systems.
The goal is to renovate the second half in a year and, long-term, potentially buy the building, he said.
The property sold last fall for $3.2 million to 75 Westminster LLC, whose manager is Tom Platz, according to the Androscoggin County Registry of Deeds.
At its different operations, the company employs 35 people, Pepin said. Once the Westminster site is operational, he anticipates creating 25 to 30 full-time positions in this first phase.
“We’ve got a lot of work cut out for us and we’re really happy,” he said. “We don’t expect any production out of this facility until perhaps late summer, early fall. Between now and then there will be a lot of construction that happens for us to get to that point.”
The company is working with the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy for its conditional license, Pepin said.
David Hediger, Lewiston’s director of planning and code enforcement, said all the building permits are in place to start outfitting the space and that cultivation can start after a local certificate of occupancy and local marijuana business license is issued, provided state approvals are in place.
Pepin said creating jobs and their local roots are a point of pride for all three owners. Pepin and the third partner, Adam Platz of Auburn, are 2004 Edward Little graduates. Roy graduated from Leavitt Area High School in 1999.
“For us, we’re most proud to be locally owned and operated — we don’t have any other business partners or inventors,” he said. “The only way we could have kept it like that is if we started a long time ago and kept rolling positive cash flow back into the business. It’s a long time coming for us.”