Tommy Nafso and co-founder Darel Ross will open the first of three planned Noxx cannabis dispensaries in Grand Rapids this month, with a soft launch on Aug. 22 and a grand opening on Sept. 10, followed by a second dispensary at the end of September.
Then comes Noxx’s largest operation: a processing and dispensing facility, expected to open in mid-November.
Incubator For Minority Local Talent
The three dispensaries combined make Noxx one of the city’s largest cannabis players in the span of a few months. The partners are spending about $3 million on renovations, according to Crain’s Detroit, with the intention of creating an incubator for minority talent.
Nafso and Ross started Noxx earlier this year marketing the company as a “hyper-local” cannabis retailer with a focus on those impacted by the War on Drugs.
Both Nafso and Ross have said they hope to use the dispensaries to nurture Black cannabis entrepreneurs and eventually seed new Black-owned operations in Michigan.
To that end, they plan to hire 150 employees across the three Noxx locations, and have committed to hiring at least 75 percent of the talent from Grand Rapids’ city-defined “neighborhoods of focus,” comprised of 17 census tracts on the west and south sides wherein residents span a variety of income, education, homeownership and wealth.
Nafso and Ross also committed to hiring a 25 percent Black and brown staff and have contracted with the Black-owned Grand Rapids firm Phenix Security for the dispensary.
The Noxx dispensaries will be designed with a “galactic” theme, in an effort to replicate a pleasant retail atmosphere.
“We think it’s a really immersive experience that focuses on the senses and gets back to the basics of what the consumer wants,” said Nafso, former general counsel at Detroit-based Butzel Long and once a state regulator in alcohol and gaming.
Ross, in his capacity as the co-director of the DeVos-backed startup incubator Start Garden and founder of Forty Acres Enterprises, which has holdings in real estate, cannabis, food and hospitality, has focused his career on equitable economic development in Grand Rapids.
“Once (Nafso and I) met, it was totally like-minded,” Ross said per Crain’s. “We shared very similar ideals as far as the social equity piece … creating very, very good brands and businesses, and creating jobs and opportunities.”