GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A West Michigan pizzeria owner is turning to legal pot for his next business venture, after executive orders sparked by the pandemic squeezed the restaurant industry.
Exclusive Brands's Grand Rapids location is now open at 2350 29th Street SE on the South East side of the city. They are serving both medical and recreational customers.
Davide Uccello and his brother Daniele have owned and operated multiple Flo's Pizzeria locations across West Michigan for years. They started in the restaurant industry with their first location in 2011.
When the pandemic hit, like so many others, Flo's Pizzeria took a major hit. The brothers had already been discussing expanding their business operations prior to COVID, but after the ensuing executive orders regarding restaurants, their search for something new was kicked into overdrive.
"When we started to look at expanding our portfolio, we wanted to find an industry that was an essential business, that would be prosperous through the pandemic," Davide Uccello told FOX 17 on Tuesday.
Exclusive Brands Cannabis had already opened a location in Ann Arbor when Davide started talks about becoming a business partner.
"And then we partnered up at Kalamazoo, now Grand Rapids, and soon we might be announcing a different location as well," Davide said Tuesday.
Exclusive is currently employing about 300 people between their three locations—40 people alone are employed at the new Grand Rapids shop.
“Our overall mission is to make cannabis more accessible to people," said Narmin Jarrous, Chief Development Officer with Exclusive.
"Whether that means by expanding our locations or, you know, having varying price levels for cannabis, we want to make sure that if someone wants cannabis and needs cannabis, they have access to it."
They have stocked their stores with accessibility in mind—with a wide range of products at strengths and prices across the board.
The company makes or distributes many of the products they sell in their stores themselves—Kushy Punch, Strain Kings, Platinum Vapes, Terpene Tanks and Church Cannabis are all under Exclusive Brands.
With their official grand opening happening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they hope to quickly become deeply connected with the community they serve.
“We're really dedicated to making sure cannabis is an equitable space, and that there's room for everyone in the industry. So just like we want a product for everyone, we want everyone to feel safe here, and to know they belong,” Jarrous said.
Exclusive also operates a social equity program aimed at helping people of color looking to get into the cannabis industry, offering assistance with the process of planning and licensing a cannabis business.