Muskegon family opens county’s first state-licensed medical marijuana business in district aiming to breathe new life into vacant industrial buildings
Flanked by an expanse of brick and sunlight, the inside of Muskegon’s first state-licensed medical marijuana business, Park Place Provisionary, is filled with people on Friday: those looking for relief from seizures, others who are battling chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and individuals in neck braces.
As the customers look around the former trucking depot at 1922 Park St., the staff on the other side of the counter—including one worker who moved from Washington state to Muskegon specifically for this job—field questions about the products before them: cannabis-infused espresso beans, truffles and chocolate bars; gummies; locally-made glassware; and more.
“We opened Monday, and the number of people coming to us has been increasing 30 percent every day; everyone’s been really receptive,” says Greg Maki, Park Place Provisionary’s president and owner and a longtime businessman from Muskegon. “People are thrilled they don’t have to drive to Lansing, Kalamazoo, or Jackson anymore, and they say our prices are in line with the other provisionaries.”
“I was surprised at how many people who are 55 to 80 years old have come in, along with younger people, too,” Maki continues. “There are tie-dyed T-shirts to suits and ties, old beat-up cars to new Lincolns and BMWs.”
Debuting a little more than a decade after Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana and less than a year after our state became the first in the Midwest to approve the recreational use of marijuana, Park Place Provisionary is locally-owned and family-run: something that Maki and his business partner, Tracy Powers, note is often a rarity in the medical marijuana industry.
Park Place, which celebrated its grand opening on Friday, is owned by Agri-Med, a company launched by Maki. Agri-Medi is run by Maki, Powers, and Maki’s nephew, Chief Financial Officer Aaron Smith. Maki’s sons Greg and Drew Maki too work at the store. In all, the Muskegon facility created 13 jobs.
“It’s almost all big business from out of state or the east side of the state” applying to open medical marijuana venues in West Michigan, explains Powers, Agri-Med’s vice president. “The fact that we’re locally owned is very unique.”
Too, having it be a family affair translates to individuals from across the age spectrum being involved in the business—something that Maki emphasizes is paving the way to greater success.
“We have this wide range of ages in an industry where a lot of people are 35,” says Maki, who’s 63 years old. “That wide range works in our favor. We have a wide spectrum of people’s thoughts and ideas.”
The shop is part of the city of Muskegon’s medical marijuana overlay district—which city legislators backed last year as an attempt to breathe new life into vacant industrial buildings located south of Laketon Avenue. The overlay district includes the area located between Seaway Drive and Park Street on the west and east and Hackley Avenue and Young Avenue on the south and north; it allows for provisioning centers, growers, processors, secure transporters, and safety compliance facilities.
The Park Place facility has undergone extensive renovations, including connecting the property with city water and sewer, landscaping, lighting, interior design, and extensive security and surveillance.
“This facility far exceeds what the municipality and state requires with bulletproof glass, security doors; we went above and beyond what both require,” Maki says.
Ultimately, the team behind Agri-Med plans to both grow and process marijuana at the Muskegon facility; the company will also open a state-licensed provisioning center, named Exit 9, in Ottawa County in July, and the company hopes to have two medical marijuana facilities in Grand Rapids.
“When the state made this legal, I had probably six [Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs] licenses already, and I was excited to jump on board,” says Maki, who currently owns Eastside Auto Parts in Ravenna and has run a mechanic shop, trucking company, used car lot, and more. “I thought it was like the end of Prohibition; it’s the beginning of a new industry.”
Of course, the beginning of anything—particularly an entire industry—is not without its challenges, and the road to Park Place hasn’t always been an easy one.
“Even though I have good credit, the bank wouldn’t give a loan because it [medical marijuana] is federally illegal,” Maki says. “I had a luxury car and several pieces of real estate, and I more or less sold everything I’ve acquired over the last 40 years and put that into this business.”
The decision to do that comes at a time when public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing marijuana nationwide. In 2018, 66 percent of U.S. residents backed marijuana legalization; as of now, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana and 22 states have made medical marijuana legal. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from interfering with state marijuana laws, such as closing marijuana dispensaries.
Too, Maki’s decision to launch Park Place and Agri-Med was one that he and his team heavily researched, even traveling to other states that legalized marijuana before Michigan, including Colorado—where medical marijuana was legalized in 2000 and recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012.
“We did a lot of research; we went to Denver and did an industry insider tour,” Powers says. “People in Denver told us to be prepared for fast change and be prepared for growth.”
While the process of opening has Park Place has been a challenge, Maki says he has no doubt it “will pay off” and notes the opportunity to be involved in a new industry, particularly one that’s rooted in helping individuals who are struggling with a range of health conditions—from cancer to PTSD, is worth the growing pains.
“It’s all been so rewarding for us,” Maki says.
Story and photos by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.