The first recreational marijuana dispensary in Rosemont opened Monday, with its owners hoping to capitalize on a location near the Allstate Arena, hotels and O'Hare International Airport.
EarthMed, at 10441 E. Touhy Ave., is the second location for co-owners Gus Koukoutsakis and Mike Perez, who in 2015 were among the first in the state to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Addison. The Addison store added recreational sales a year ago when it became legal, and their original state license allowed them to open a recreational-only store by March 2021.
Following a ceremonial ribbon cutting Monday morning, the owners said they had been looking for a second location for some time, and found the Rosemont site advantageous because it's near tollways and village entertainment venues.
"There's no typical customer," said Koukoutsakis, who is CEO. "You attract people from everywhere, even out of state being so close to the airport, being so close to the Allstate Arena. I think that the possibilities are endless."
Monday's opening was the culmination of five months of renovations to a 5,200-square-foot strip mall space -- a former Racconto Italian eatery and neighboring vacant store. That came after 59% of Rosemont voters, in an advisory ballot question last March, said they were in favor of allowing recreational pot sales.
Village officials crafted zoning rules governing the dispensaries, allowing as many as two villagewide. Last month, they approved plans for another pot shop, Verilife, to take over a 4,800-square-foot brick building shell in the Parkway Bank Park entertainment district. It had been the home to a dueling piano bar for only a few months before closing amid the pandemic.
Officials estimate each dispensary could generate at least $600,000 a year in local sales taxes.
"Let's hope the demand that we see throughout the state remains through here and provides some revenue for the village, and of course that opportunity for a lot of the tourism that happens here in Rosemont through our hotel properties and whatnot, once we're allowed to come back and operate at full strength," Mayor Brad Stephens said at the grand opening Monday.
EarthMed's owners have positioned themselves as an "independent" dispensary, contracting with various cultivators offering a whole host of products, from flowers to edibles, and concentrates to vape pens. After checking in at the front desk, walk-in customers are greeted by a salesperson, also known as a "budtender," and they can check out at one of nearly 20 points of sale.
As operators of one of the first medical dispensaries in Illinois, Koukoutsakis and Perez admit they took a chance at what was an unknown industry.
"Cannabis was definitely something that intrigued us," said Koukoutsakis, who along with Perez has been involved in the bar/restaurant and real estate businesses. "But we did know it was a gamble and there was a big risk behind it."
But they say the Illinois marijuana industry -- and their business -- has only grown exponentially since then.
"We're risk-takers," Perez added.