Rebelle says its committed to inclusivity and social equity.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The owners of cannabis dispensary Rebelle say they are bringing a normalized cannabis retail experience to the Berkshires while prioritizing social, racial, and environmental justice.
Rebelle — woman and minority-owned — sits across from Guido’s Marketplace in a renovated townhouse that Wild Birds Country Store previously occupied.
Through its parent company Community Growth Partners, Rebelle is committed to the creation of internship and career opportunities with nonprofit partners. This includes recruiting a workforce from disproportionately impacted communities like Pittsfield and North Adams, an expungement fund that works to overturn or set aside low-level cannabis convictions in Massachusetts, and partnering with non-profit organization Roca.
Founder and CEO Charlotte Hanna, who has a background in non-profits and worked on Wall Street, explained that the boutique cannabis dispensary believes in inclusive, equitable capitalism that benefits shareholders and employees alike.
“We’re here to make money, but I think we can do a lot of good in the process,” Hanna said. “We have to take into equal consideration all of our decisions, the impact on shareholder value equally with employees, the community, and the environment. This is written into our bylaws, that’s how serious I am about it.”
Hanna said that from Rebelle’s development stages in 2018, it was clear that this partnership was going to be a very important part of the core of how the dispensary does business. The aim was to have a talent pipeline that comes from communities that have been hurt by the criminalization of cannabis so they can get equity from the company and build wealth with them.
Members of Roca worked on Rebelle’s renovation as an internship and were reimbursed for long-distance travel. One member accepted a permanent position at the facility and Hanna plans to fill two open positions with individuals from Roca.
Co-owner and Vice President Marcus Williams explained that Rebelle aims to give customers a wealth of knowledge about their products in a relaxed, non-clinical feeling retail space with an open layout and a “chill vibe.”
This includes having empty mock packages of their selected products on the sales floor for customers to touch.
“Customer experience was a big factor in how we designed the store,” Williams said. “We wanted people to not feel rushed, we wanted people to feel there was a wealth of information around, and most importantly we wanted people to be able to do something really simple, which is touching the product.”
Williams feels that when customers are unable to see the product before purchasing, it turns off the curiosity and discovery of shopping. Rebelle has a boutique feel that welcomes customers to come in and just look around. Oftentimes, Williams said, this will lead to a customer picking up a product and asking a staff member to educate them on it.
“I feel like from a purchasing perspective you can go into any store and pick something up and try to figure out for yourself what it is,” he said. “Which is pretty much impossible in the mass [cannabis] market.”
Along with a wealth of cannabis education posted on the walls of Rebelle, the staff is well educated and carefully curated to deliver a positive, meaningful experience, he said. Each member has expertise in their own way, Williams said, and they work well together as a team, bouncing ideas off one another and creating an effective work environment.
“I think our team is a team of experts in some sense,” he said. “And that’s definitely reflected to the consumers when they walk in.”
Rebelle employees are also required to complete cannabis education and training materials prior to interacting with customers.
Williams said that knowledge is very empowering, so it is a priority to make sure the dispensary is very honest and straightforward.
“If anything, I just want you to leave our store with a bit more knowledge,” he said.
Williams is a longtime cannabis enthusiast, cultivator, and produce geneticist. When Hanna and he met a few years ago, they had a similar vision and decided to join forces.
Previously, Hanna had a fondness for the Berkshires and felt it was like a second home. When the idea for Rebelle came to fruition in 2018, the company felt Berkshire County was the best location because of its proximity to New York State and Connecticut and the municipality’s openness to the cannabis industry.
Hanna felt this was a perfect industry for her because she is a cannabis enthusiast and doesn’t understand why the United States has weaponized and criminalized the plant.
Massachusetts application process for dispensaries is a complicated, high barrier to the marketplace, Hanna said, and her company was required to write a 200-page application explaining everything it planned to do in great detail.
When the license application was brought to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission for a vote, the commissioners reportedly said the dispensary has the best positive impact and diversity plan that they had seen in the entire state.
Rebelle opened in September of this year and has met all of its very ambitious goals in just three months of operation during a pandemic.
In the near future, the dispensary plans to model itself more like a Global Community of Leaders Certified B Corporation, or B Corp, which is a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. Cannabis companies cannot be certified as B Corps, but Hannah aims to adopt these principles into the dispensary without official certification to make their purpose clear.
Rebelle is also transforming a former gun-silencer manufacturer in Northampton into a cultivation and manufacturing facility. Roca members will be doing all of the demolition there.
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