By Woody Laidlaw | Community News Service
BRADFORD — A retail cannabis shop could soon occupy the empty storefront on Main Street in Bradford.
Flyers have gone up around town for the Devil’s Den dispensary, which Kendall and Travis Gendron of Corinth hope to open in the space next to Blue Wave Taekwondo.
If the Gendrons’ license is approved by the state, Devil’s Den will be one of the first businesses southbound travelers on Route 5 see when they roll into the business district — and the couple hopes the store helps bring traffic to other shops.
“People will stop, make their purchases and check out some of the other businesses around town … Like, ‘Hey, there’s an independent bookstore,” said Travis.
Recreational pot sales “can only bring prosperity” in town, added Kendall, who hopes to open at the start of the new year.
The plans for Devil’s Den come after Bradford residents voted 166–91 earlier this month to approve retail cannabis sales in town. Selling adult-use marijuana becomes legal in Vermont on Oct. 1, and stores can open after approval at the town level and licensure from the state. So far the state Cannabis Control Board has only approved three applications.
Locals and downtown visitors may already be familiar with the owners, who own Vittles House of Brews a block away from the proposed store.
The Gendrons have adopted a name for the store that will be familiar to area outdoor enthusiasts.
Travis, who grew up in the Topsham and Corinth area, has long enjoyed hiking the Devil’s Den trail network on Wright’s Mountain in Bradford.
“I’ve been hiking the trail since I was a kid, and I wanted to poke fun at ‘the devil’s lettuce,’” he said when describing the shop’s name, referencing an old “Reefer Madness”–style term for pot. He and Kendall have lived in Corinth since 2016 after a few years in Seattle.
This familiarity with the surrounding area has helped the couple forge connections with local farms to secure product for the opening.
“There are farms in Topsham, Bradford and Berkshire that have gotten their (growers) licenses, and I’m in talks with some of them,” Travis said.
The Gendrons want to ensure their operation won’t cause problems for residents.
“We understand this is a point of contention … We want to involve the community as much as possible,” Kendall said.
The couple hope to distribute fliers with every sale that educate people about recreational cannabis.
“We really emphasize that cannabis isn’t for children and is for private consumption in your home … We really want to be good neighbors,” said Kendall.
The new venture, which the couple hopes to open in January, is partly informed by Travis’ experiences after being discharged from the Army with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They wanted to call it ‘seasonal depression’ because it’s rainy in Seattle,” he said. “That diagnosis doesn’t receive disability assistance.” He said he challenged his diagnosis and won, but Department of Veterans Affairs doctors wanted to prescribe him medication he didn’t want to take.
That’s where cannabis came in.
“Cannabis stopped me from going down the pill rabbit hole … that was being pushed by the VA,” he said. “One of my biggest goals as a user [is that] I want to get rid of the stigma. It’s antiquated and unnecessary.”
Back in Vermont he’s happier with the smaller VA branch.
“The service is just better when there’re fewer people,” he said.
The Devil’s Den is the first of a collection of businesses opening in the same location.
“We really see ourselves bridging the gap between recreation and wellness,” said Kendall Gendron.
She and her husband are interested in ways they can pursue collaborations between the pot shop and their cafe.
“Maybe a [THC]-infused chocolate covered coffee bean,” Kendall said, adding later, “But we want it to be clear that these are two distinctly separate businesses.”
The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.