Mayor to sign deal with 1st pot shop

The Barber's Edge and Flowers & Gifts on Rantoul Street may be the home of a marijuana dispensary. 

BEVERLY — The city has reached an agreement with a company to open what could become the city’s first marijuana shop.

Mayor Mike Cahill said he plans to sign a host community agreement with Fresh Fields LLC to open a recreational marijuana store at 350-354 Rantoul St.

The company was one of seven applicants seeking a coveted spot for a pot shop in the same area on Rantoul or Park streets. City regulations prohibit marijuana stores within 2,000 feet of each other, so the applicants were basically competing for one available license.

“We’re very honored that we were chosen,” said Rick Alpern, one of Fresh Fields’ partners. “There were a lot of good applicants.”

Regulations adopted by the city last year limit the number of marijuana businesses in the city to four, so Cahill, who has the authority to select the proposals, still has three more to go. He said he is in discussions with two other companies about opening marijuana businesses, one at 13 Enon St. in North Beverly and one at 95 Sam Fonzo Drive near the Beverly Regional Airport.

The proposal for Sam Fonzo Drive calls for both a retail shop and a marijuana manufacturing facility in what would be a new building.

Cahill said Wednesday that the city had not officially signed a host community agreement with Fresh Fields, but the two sides have come to an agreement. In its proposal, Fresh Fields said it would pay the city 3 percent of its annual gross sales, which it projected at $7.6 million in its fourth year of operation. That would translate into a contribution of $228,758 to the city for that year.

Signing a host community agreement is only a first step in the long process of opening a marijuana store. Fresh Fields also needs approval from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission and the Beverly Zoning Board. Alpern estimated the process could take a year to a year and a half.

Fresh Fields would be located on Rantoul Street in a building that now houses The Barber’s Edge and Flowers & Gifts. The building is owned by Alpern and his wife, Dolores, who are partners in Fresh Fields.

Fresh Fields’ chief executive officer is Jeff Black, the chief operating officer of a wholesale and retail gasoline and diesel company. Black has a 73% ownership in Fresh Fields, according to the company’s application to the city. Three other partners, including Rick and Dolores Alpern, have a 9% ownership each. The company has also proposed a marijuana shop in Gloucester.

Cahill said he selected Fresh Fields based on the soundness of its business, security and parking plans and “well designed customer flow” that will prevent lines from forming outside the door.

Rick Alpern said he and his wife live in Beverly and have been involved in the community for years. He is on the board of directors of the Greater Beverly YMCA, and both have been involved with Beverly Bootstraps for years, he said.

“My wife and I volunteer a lot in the community and we’re going to do this the right way,” Rick Alpern said.

A total of 10 companies have submitted proposals to open marijuana businesses in Beverly since the city finalized regulations regarding the business last December. One of those proposals was removed from consideration because it was within 500 feet of a state-licensed child care facility, which is against state regulations.

Massachusetts residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016. The ballot question passed by a 54% margin among Beverly voters.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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