WORCESTER — The city’s newest adult-use marijuana dispensary, Diem Cannabis, indeed seized the day with a grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at its 74 Grafton St. location.
“It’s really cool to be standing here in this moment, two-and-a-half years in the making,” Chris Mitchem, CEO and co-founder of Diem Cannabis, said during his opening remarks. “It was a long project and a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this.”
Diem Worcester is the city’s fifth dispensary and the second to allow recreational sales. Good Chemistry opened on Harrison Street for recreational sales last year after first offering medical marijuana. Diem also has locations in Portland, and Salem, Oregon.
According to Mitchem, the Oregon-based cannabis company has been in existence for about four years.
Mitchem credited general contractor Ernie Nadeau of the Attleboro-based Nadeau Corporation, architect Scott Dzik and Matt Busby, the construction production manager, for revitalizing the dilapidated building that once was the home of Access Ambulance and creating a structure that the community could be proud of.
“You can see how much work has gone into this building,” Mitchem said. “A short time ago, probably 12 months, it looked a lot different. The roof was, basically, caving in…These bay windows were garage doors for ambulances that would pull in and out.”
Mitchem said Diem Cannabis is really excited to be part of the Canal District’s “huge revitalization phase,” adding that an attorney who is well verse in cannabis law said he wouldn’t be surprised if Diem Cannabis becomes one of the top five dispensaries in the state.
“It’s kind of a David and Goliath story,” Mitchem explained. “We’re not one of the big guys. We’re not a huge company. We’re up against some major competition with 10s of millions of dollars’ worth of funding.”
Mitchem also thanked John DiNovella, general manager of the Worcester-location of Diem Cannabis, as well as his “amazing team” of 15 employees in Worcester and his team back in Oregon.
“We’re really proud of the guys that we hired,” Mitchem said. “We met some really aggressive diversity targets that we set for ourselves.”
A teary-eyed Mitchem thanked the City of Worcester for giving Diem Cannabis the opportunity to open, as well as his family in Oregon for their unwavering support through the long hours and plenty of financial stress. A husband and father with two small children back in Oregon, Mitchem comes to Worcester every two weeks to see how the operation is doing.
“People think that you are going to jump into cannabis and automatically become a millionaire,” Mitchem said. “Those people are totally wrong. It’s a ton of work. It’s just like any other business with real, unique challenges.”
Mitchem also said he’s really proud of the inventory selection they are providing for its consumers.
“I think that’s going to set us apart,” Mitchem said of the selection. “We want to carry absolutely everything we can find. We want to talk to every vendor. And we want to stock our shelves and have a broad selection, carry the entire spectrum.”
Mitchem said the marijuana dispensary market is big enough for a bunch of different businesses to do well in the city.
“We’re from Oregon and we compete in a city in Oregon with over 70 dispensaries. And it’s (a) quarter (of) the size of Worcester,” he said. “There’s plenty of market to go around.”
In addition to the tax revenue the city will get from Diem Cannabis, the marijuana dispensary is creating “really good jobs,” paying “high above minimum wage” as its starting wage and offering a “really clear path for career growth” (and more money), plus health care benefits, Mitchem said.
In the end, Diem Cannabis hopes to create 30 new jobs in the city.
Mitchem said Worcester has greeted Diem Cannabis with open arms and he has nothing but praise for his home away from home.
“The city, itself, is really well run,” Mitchem said. “We’ve gotten the opportunity to experience a lot of different systems in cities and towns in the U.S. The City of Worcester stands apart, in my mind.”
As for his second home, Mitchem, despite being a Seattle Seahawks fan, said he loves it.
“Worcester is this really cool and upcoming city in New England right now,” he said. “There’s a tone of growth, especially in the Canal District. It’s a really exciting time to be here.”
City Councilor Candy F. Mero-Carlson said the people at Diem Cannabis have been “absolutely awesome” to work with.
“From day one, you cared about this community. You made it your business to find out who was here,” she said. “What you have done to this building for this neighborhood is absolutely awesome. We couldn’t ask for better business people to come into District 2.”
Mero-Carlson said with all the economic development being done in the Canal District, Shrewsbury Street and, now, the bottom of Grafton Street, Diem Cannabis is a welcome addition and “awesome fit” to the neighborhood.
Deidra Ruvido of Andover was the first customer in the door. She said she purchased “a bunch of pre-rolls” and “some edibles.”
“The team right here is what brings me here,” Ruvido said. “I couldn’t wait to come out and see everybody today, give them my support and place my first order. I drove a long way to get their product.”
Due to the coronavirus, the spacious marijuana dispensary is capping its capacity at 26 people, which includes its working staff of eight to 10 at a time. Patrons must wear face masks. Pickup orders can be completed online at hellodiem.com.