LYNN — Olde World Remedies executives say the company has given 20 percent of its profits to charity and the remaining 80 percent to the community since first opening its doors in Lynn last year. Now, the cannabis dispensary hopes to do the same in Saugus.
Marblehead residents of about 30 years, the Rothenberg family owns and primarily operates Olde World Remedies. Alan Rothenberg is CEO and dad. Olde World Remedies is his ninth business venture and, he said, “by far the most tricky” due to the amount of industry regulation. His wife, Suzanne Rothenberg, balances mom duties and the company’s finances. Their daughter Jessica works as the company’s buyer and daughter Jillian helps market the business using social media. Their son, Joel, alongside his best friend and business partner, Sedrick Wali, manage the storefront and serve as company executives. The Rothenbergs described Wali as an honorary member who consistently has spent time with the family since first meeting Joel when they attended Boston University together.
“My kids suggested this industry and we were told it’s impossible to get into, which is one of my favorite challenges,” Alan said. “So five years later, here we are and it’s still family-run which is just an awesome experience to have all the kids working together.”
Olde World Remedies prides itself on being different from its competitors. It focuses on building relationships with other small businesses, giving employees a reasonable wage, giving back to the community, and supporting victims of wrongful cannabis incarceration. Alan said they have never said “no” to anyone asking for a charitable donation. He added that a second storefront in Saugus would “quadruple” the amount they are able to donate to local causes.
“We just want to change that stereotype that cannabis companies are these big corporations coming in and stealing,” Joel said. “We want to be able to go head-to-head with them and show them that a family business can do it better.”
Joel said watching friends whose lives had been “ruined” by drugs doctors had prescribed for their anxiety and sleep apnea motivated him to enter the cannabis industry. Alan added that he liked the idea of giving an alternative to U.S. veterans struggling with pain who are often prescribed addictive medications, such as Percocets. They said they sell a cannabis balm that only two customers purchase once a month. They said they lose money by keeping the balm in their inventory, but that they wouldn’t dream of taking it off the menu because it helps those two customers with their pain.
“Knowing that there is a plant that is non-habit forming that can help with these things, I just had to get involved,” Joel said.
Olde World Remedies is also not shy about acknowledging the relationship between race and wrongful cannabis convictions. Of the company’s employees, about 80 percent identify as a minority or person of color. In October, it will host a fundraiser at Nubian Square in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood including educational booths and a concert to benefit Black people who were wrongfully incarcerated on cannabis charges. In addition to making a donation themselves, the Rothenberg family is currently recruiting large companies to purchase tables at the event.
Olde World Remedies also works with and sells products from cannabis grower Phillip Bailey, of Bailey’s Buds, another Massachusetts family-owned business. Phillip’s dad, Gus, was formerly incarcerated on cannabis charges and now runs Bailey’s Buds with his sons.
“You find the people who care about the plant first and the people who care about the money first and the people who care about the plant first are the people you want to be around,” Joel said. “They are producing the premium cannabis. They’re guaranteeing that it’s healthy and safe.”
Despite some initial hesitation, Olde World Remedies has found a home in Lynn in the last year. Joel said the majority of those the company employs are from Lynn and they hire Lynn companies any chance they get. Wali explained that they hired someone from Lynn to install their specially mandated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, as well as someone from Lynn as their graphic designer.
“In a way, Lynn kind of chose us,” Joel said. “They gave us the opportunity and we saw that it was a community that’s been really wrongly impacted by cannabis incarceration and as you meet the people here, you realize how passionate they are.”
Hoping to do the same in Saugus, Joel said they are currently eyeing a location and preparing to submit their license application to the Town of Saugus as early as next week. Alan said a primary reason the family is looking to expand into Saugus is that they know the town’s public schools and fire department could use more funding.
Joel is also preparing to provide answers to residents’ most common concerns as Olde World Remedies does not want to be a burden on the community. He said if they were to open a Saugus location, residents will not be able to smell cannabis from the street, there will not be cannabis-related trash outside, and there will not be customers using cannabis outside.
“For the past few months, we’ve been going around Saugus to Town Hall meetings, to just look at local businesses, and to talk to people there,” Wali said. “We don’t want to just make a blanket statement [with our application],we actually want to respond to what the people want.”
Joel emphasized Wali’s point and said the Saugus location would have a similar amount of security as the location in Lynn. Olde World Remedies currently has 36 security cameras, two security guards, panic buttons under the counter, and has not encountered any significant security issues since first opening its doors, according to Joel.
“If we are given an opportunity in Saugus, we will treat it the exact same way and we will be incredibly grateful for it, as well as swear that we will do anything that the community wants and needs from us,” Joel said. “These corporations will open a store and they’ll never be there. They don’t care about the community. They don’t learn about the community. We’re not interested in that. We’re interested in creating a bond with the community and being a part of the community, not just a business there.”
Rachel Barber can be reached at [email protected].