COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Members of the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce help Harbor Farmz founder and CEO Michael Ward (center, holding scissors) cut the ceremonial ribbon during a ribbon-cutting event at the flagship store for Harbor Farmz Tuesday. The store, located at 503 S. U.S. 131, is the first recreational marijuana store to open in Three Rivers.

First rec marijuana shop in Three Rivers officially opens

THREE RIVERS — Legal recreational marijuana is now available to purchase in Three Rivers.

On Saturday, the first adult-use marijuana retailer in the city, Harbor Farmz, opened its doors to the public with a considerable turnout. According to Harbor Farmz CEO and founder Michael Ward, 350 people came into the store on the first day of operation, with 150 people lined up outside the door an hour before they even opened.

“That alone makes me so happy to be welcomed in such a way in the community,” Ward said. “We pretended as if it was 4/20, because we unfortunately missed it, and we sold accordingly.”

The party continued Tuesday, when a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the store, located at 503 S. U.S. 131, was held with the assistance of the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce. Ward said it was great to finally be open in the city, seven months after they were approved as one of the first two recreational marijuana shop permits in the city.

“We’re very, very excited to be part of this community. It's an unbelievably welcoming community, and we have been met with open arms. It couldn't have worked out any better,” Ward said.

Harbor Farmz sells a variety of marijuana and marijuana-related products, including edibles, flowers, pre-packaged items, and accessories such as glassware and grinders. About half of the marijuana products they sell come from Harbor Farmz’s cultivating and processing facility in Kalamazoo, with the other half coming from other vetted suppliers and vendors.

Their Three Rivers location is the flagship store for the company, which started in 2017. Ward said he founded the business not necessarily for recreational marijuana, but for medical marijuana, which is slowly going away with Michigan legalizing recreational.

“I believe so strongly about the medicinal aspect of cannabis that it's why I got into the industry. I didn't get into the business for rec, but you can't take a blind eye to it now, because a vast majority of the medical shops aren't doing well,” Ward said. “To offset that, keeping the medical aspect of our license in mid, we give medical discounts to our patients here.”

Ward chose Three Rivers to set up the flagship store mainly because of a series of encounters he and his company had with former city commissioner Clayton Lyczynski last year back when the city was considering a recreational marijuana ordinance.

“My security officer reached out to one of the city councilmen, Clayton, for an opportunity to come down and see our [Kalamazoo] facility. We gave him a tour, and then we came down here to meet with Clayton and better understand the environment, and this was the first time I had been to Three Rivers,” Ward said. “I was floored by the community and absolutely loved it, and said this is where we need to be.”

One advantage Ward had with designing the shop is that the building itself hadn’t been constructed yet, giving him freedom to do what he saw fit, with help from real estate company Meyer C. Weiner Company, who owns the building. The building, which will soon also house a Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurant, took six months to build.

“We designed the building, the building grew and shrunk based on what we were designing for. It was a clean slate. We had the opportunity to do it the way we wanted to,” Ward said. “Is it perfect? Nothing's perfect, but we're as close as we can get to what we wanted.”

Ward said people who come into their shop have the opportunity for consultation with the store’s “budtenders,” and that they can expect a “warm and friendly environment” when people who are of age come into the store.

“They can expect a warm and friendly environment to come into and very comfortable and welcoming. That's the entire aspect of Harbor Farmz,” Ward said. “I want this to be a destination for people seeking out adult use and medical products in the safest and nicest environment possible.”

What makes Harbor Farmz different from other shops currently in the area or about to come in, Ward said, was because their product is “organically grown” and is Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) certified.

“We're the only CGMP-certified grower in the state currently by a third party,” Ward said. “Our flower and products we have here made by Harbor Farmz will not be carried by any other stores in town, unless they want to. Some of the larger, multi-state operators and larger players in the state most likely won't want to carry our products. We carry very unique, local grow, people that put the type of care into the product we do, and that's who we partner with.”

So far, Harbor Farmz has been present in other areas of the community, sponsoring a travel softball team in the area and becoming members of the area Chamber before they opened the store.

“We're showing our community outreach before we're open. It's a big part of us to not just come barging in, this is a ‘come in, we'll give you a hug’ type environment,” Ward said.

Overall, Ward said he’s looking forward to being a successful business in Three Rivers for a “long time.”

“I signed a 10-year lease, and I'm hopeful to be here for all 10 years,” Ward said.

Harbor Farmz is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ward said hours could potentially change in the summer months with growing season.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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