Nonprofit Union Square Travel Agency, one of the first legal marijuana shops to open in New York last year, will be opening a second store in the Big Apple within days under its newly rebranded moniker, The Travel Agency, the company shared with Green Market Report.
Although the new shop will bear The Travel Agency’s name, ownership and management will be retained by another of the 463 conditional adult use retail dispensary (CAURD) licensees that were granted cannabis retail permits last year, CEO Paul Yau said.
The new shop, located at 118-122 Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn, will be owned by GMDSS LLC and its principal Robert Teten, Yau said. The Travel Agency will act primarily in a supporting role and lend its brand name via a licensing deal.
“There’s certain brand equity from Union Square Travel Agency that’s going to be super helpful for the launch of the Brooklyn store,” Yau said, emphasizing that The Travel Agency is still awaiting a chance to get its own second location chosen and approved by state regulators.
It’s not yet clear what date the Brooklyn shop will open, as it’s still awaiting a final inspection and approval from the state Office of Cannabis Management, but the goal is to open sometime this coming week.
“I don’t think it’s going to open on Monday. We’re hopeful sometime (this) week. As soon as they do the inspection, we’re ready to go,” Yau said.
The final Brooklyn shop is also still being built out, Yau noted, and likely won’t be open until April. Until then, The Travel Agency will be operating a pop-up store of about 3,500 square feet next to the eventual 4,800-square-foot permanent location, similarly to how the nonprofit opened its first location in Manhattan last February while still completing construction.
Yau said the partnership between The Travel Agency and GMDSS came about “organically” last year as he and others at The Travel Agency were giving tours of their shop to other CAURD licensees who were still struggling to get their own shops permitted and open.
It wasn’t necessarily a business opportunity that The Travel Agency was looking for, Yau said, and he hedged when asked if the nonprofit would be open to similar licensing deals with other CAURDs.
“We’re open to it, but the partnership has to be right,” Yau said. “What made this possible is having similar beliefs and values, wanting to be a good community partner. Even though it’s a licensing deal, they are day-in, day-out wearing the name, so you want to make sure they’re good custodians of the brand.”
As for when The Travel Agency may get its own second location, Yau said that’s simply unknown at this juncture.
“With the broader licensing in New York State, I don’t think it’s any time soon,” he said, referring to the ongoing licensing by the OCM and the roughly 7,000 permit applicants the agency is currently sifting through.
Yau also said that, though The Travel Agency doesn’t disclose sales or profit figures, the nonprofit’s Manhattan marijuana shop has thus far been profitable, and that the store has hit its sales forecasts for 2023, serving between 1,100 and 1,200 customers per day.
“Business is good,” Yau said. “We just have seen continued growth, month after month at the store… The business is profitable, for sure.”
That said, he admitted that business could always get better, particularly with an estimated 8,000 unlicensed marijuana shops operating in New York City.
“We’re super excited we were able to hit our forecasts. But we also do appreciate that a meaningful reduction in those illicit stores would drive a lot more revenue to us and the broader industry,” Yau said.
As of Jan. 12, New York had just 49 legal recreational marijuana stores operating across the state, according to the OCM.
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