JEFFERSON PARK — A Far Northwest Side cannabis dispensary has expanded into a neighboring space on Milwaukee Avenue.
The expansion of Columbia Care’s medical and recreational dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave., which has been in the works for almost a year, opened last month. It’s now known as Cannabist.
The expansion adds nearly 1,700 square feet to the store to meet the growing base of medical patients and adult-use customers on the Far Northwest Side, said LizMarie Palomo, Midwest general manager for Cannabist.
The remodel moves the retail side of the store to the new space, while the existing area is repurposed as a check-in that features the company’s cannabis inventory search system.
“We just saw our customer numbers and our patient numbers growing and growing and this was just something that was able to better accommodate them,” said Palomo, who works primarily out of the Jefferson Park store.
Cannabist offers several of Columbia Care’s brands, and its cannabis inventory search tool, Forage, helps customers find strains and products to fit their needs, Palomo said.
The expansion has benefitted customers and staff members who live in the community and want to boost the local economy, Palomo said.
“Jefferson Park has given us the opportunity to grow and build, [so] we want to make sure that we give back to our neighborhood,” she said.
Neighbors and officials have long supported the dispensary and its expansion, previously saying it would bring more money and jobs to the area.
“We have issues in this neighborhood with empty storefronts, and [Columbia Care] has been consistently doing business here,” said Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, president of neighborhood group Jefferson Park Forward. “It’s one of the more successful tax-generating businesses we have right now.”
Nick Davis, owner of Westons Coffee & Tap Co. at 4872 N. Milwaukee Ave., said Columbia Care has been a solid neighbor. Prior to the pandemic, the coffee shop regularly partnered with the dispensary, letting it use his space for interviews, seminars on the state’s changing marijuana laws and neighborhood trivia events.
Davis said he supports the expansion because the dispensary has brought business to the area.
“I am excited for the community and everybody involved,” Davis previously said. Columbia Care “deserves it. The neighborhood deserves it.”
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) also has long supported the expansion. He said Cannabist’s bigger store will bring an additional $2.4 million annually in state tax revenue and add to Illinois’ marijuana revenue boom. There was nearly $1.4 billion in cannabis sales in 2021, double the $669 million sold in 2020, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Gardiner has repeatedly said thriving commerce will help shift the area’s tax burden from residents to businesses willing and able to pay their fair share.
The increased business will be a “needed boost to help bring more pedestrian foot traffic and business to an area that is in desperate need of investment,” Gardiner wrote in his recent newsletter.
Cresco Labs announced the acquisition of Columbia Care in March. Palomo said the deal, which will take about a year to finalize, will not affect the retail side of business and won’t change the current operations at Columbia Care.
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