The lines of Windy City Cannabis customers stretching out the doors and down the sidewalk could be a thing of the past.
The dispensary at 1137 175th St. in Homewood opened its doors at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, after being closed for more than three weeks for renovation and expansion of the store space, and company CEO Perrine Knight said the changes should make a big difference for customers’ experiences.
The store first opened in January 2016 as one of the early medicinal cannabis dispensaries in the state, and Knight said there was both fear and uncertainty at the time about how the cannabis business would work.
Customers had to check in at a desk in a cramped vestibule with staff behind bullet-proof glass. Product was stored in a bank-like vault. There was one door for entry and exit that was often a bottleneck for customers.
“We didn’t know what kind of experience people were looking for, and what the experience the store’s employees would have,” she said. “A lot of that (design) was born out of fear, because nobody knew what it was going to be like. We did it out of an abundance of caution, and then nobody had any problems.”
When adult-use recreational cannabis was legalized in January 2020, business surged, and the space felt even less adequate, according to Knight.
“It turns out, we’re just a regular retail store, and people want to interact with us just like they do at any other retail store,” she said. “We have been crammed into that itty bitty store space for so long., this has been a long time coming.
With the expansion into an adjacent unit, the store now has double the space — more than 5,000 square feet — and two doors. The result is a larger vestibule that will be able to host pop-up educational opportunities and a spacious store that Knight said will improve the comfort and efficiency of customer experience.
“It’s more welcoming. This is truly a comfortable experience,” she said. “No one wants to stand outside in the rain or heat or whatever. We’ve got the space, we’ve got the people.”
The store employs about 50 people, and the new layout will help them serve customers better, Knight said. The product inventory has been reorganized for better efficiency.
She thanked village officials who helped mark the reopening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Back in 2014 when Illinois was first considering their medical cannabis program, it was really tough to find communities that were welcoming. You were welcoming. You’ve been a tremendous partner from the beginning,” she said.
Mayor Rich Hofeld said the village expected the business would be a success from the start.
“We never had doubts about this place,” he said.