When Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2016, New Paltz native George Vlamis decided it was time to move. Interested in learning about the new retail business, Vlamis temporarily relocated to learn everything he could about the cannabis space and the laws and regulations that would come with operating a dispensary.
Five years later, when New York State legalized marijuana, Vlamis connected with a lifelong friend and the two created Farmer’s Choice. Without wasting any time, they approached the town of New Paltz and asked how they would feel about allowing a dispensary in the two acre plot of land right off the Thruway. With the town in full support, the only thing left was to create building plans to get the town’s official seal of approval.
A year and a half later, the site plan received its approval, but this was no easy feat. The location, 1 Old Route 299, has been owned by Vlamis’ family for the last 40 years, but had never been developed. Vlamis approached his uncle who owned the property and the two created a long term lease for the space. The issue arose during New Paltz’s rezoning; the space had been mixed into three different zones. Although on the same piece of property, these invisible lines dictated three completely different rules.
Vlamis and his partner went back to the town board and asked them to rezone the land, hopefully this time into only one zone. “The town realized that it was at fault, that it should have never been in three different zones because it restricts what you can do. So they put us into the gateway business zone, and that meant our project no longer needed any variances,” explained Vlamis.
The town’s approval meant that the two could go back to the planning board to receive further feedback.
“They asked us to do a couple of things, and one of the issues was the size of the parking,” said Vlamis.
Crispin Kott from Hudson Valley One reported that, “board member Amanda Gotto said she favored the project save for the size of the parking lot, which she feared might be too large.”
“What I don’t want to see is that a year from now when all the hoopla has died down and this becomes more like regular customers that you don’t have just a big paved thing that’s taking the trees down,” added Gotto.
Board Chair Adele Ruger said she believed that scenario was unlikely, and that the parking lot was appropriately sized.
“That’s why we’re not doing 50 [spots],” Ruger said.
Eventually, all parties involved agreed on 35 parking spots. But the parking lot isn’t where the beauty lies; it’s in the barn, with 30 foot high ceilings and 3,000 square feet of retail space that will capture the eyes and hearts of locals and tourists alike.
“We designed the barn and the brand to fit the Hudson Valley area, something that would resonate well with tourists and locals,” explained Vlamis. “We feel that the barn and the name Farmer’s Choice pulls away from the stigma of marijuana. It’s not in your face, like George’s Weed Shop, it is Farmer’s Choice. It’s a name that doesn’t throw weed in your face, but at the same time you’ll know what it is. The barn itself provides a familiar atmosphere because we’re packed here with tourists. People love to go to the apple farms and experience a farm market, so we’re creating a farm market for cannabis.”
The name itself, Farmer’s Choice, was chosen to represent that the dispensary will be providing farmers a place to sell cannabis that they’re growing but not allowed to sell. The founders have developed relationships with several local farmers. However, they have cultivated an especially strong relationship with one of New York State’s largest farms that is currently growing over 30,000 cannabis plants. Hepworth Farms, located in Milton, New York will be providing a full product line for the dispensary; this will include edibles, beverages, concentrates and more.
Farmer’s Choice will be sourcing premium products from all throughout the state. The goal is that people from the Hudson Valley and tourists that come to New Paltz will be able to come into the dispensary and get a real taste of New York through cannabis. Additionally, Farmer’s Choice will be selling products for all levels of consumers. Their products will cater to first timers, low tolerance consumers and high tolerance cannabis connoisseurs who may be looking for a specific terpene profile or level of THC.
“It’s like a diner,” said Vlamis. “You can go in a suit or in your basketball shorts. One person can order $5 eggs and the other can order a $35 steak. That’s how we want Farmers Choice to be. You can come in and buy a $10 joint or you can come in and buy a higher end product.”
When thinking about next steps, Farmers Choice is in the process of putting together a diverse hiring and staffing plan; with the intent of having a mix of people with experience as well as those who want to enter the cannabis space for the first time.
“We know that there’s not going to be a huge selection of experienced people because this is a new market within the state. But we’re not going to turn our backs and only hire out of state people that’s going to defeat the purpose,” commented Vlamis. “My partner and I, we grew up in New Paltz, we’re from this area. We’ve had several businesses in this area. We want to hire local and we want to hire people who have a passion to enter the cannabis space.”
The only thing stopping Farmers Choice from opening is the lack of guidelines from the New York Office of Cannabis Management.
However, the full set of regulations dictating how a cannabis business can operate within the state, as well as applications for dispensary licenses are expected to be released by the end of 2022.
They hope to be opened and fully staffed by the second half of 2023.
For any questions or inquiries Farmers Choice can be contacted at:
Business Inquiries: 845-417-1781
Employment Opportunities: 914-279-3020
Text and voicemails welcome Email: firstname.lastname@example.org