By Sam Jefferson | Community News Service
Waterbury’s newest cannabis dispensary has gotten off the runway with a store featuring big windows positioned to maximize natural light, four separate kiosks prepared for product browsing and sliding glass hatches covering fresh bud for fragrance testing.
In the fall of 2021, Lynette Vallecillo and fiance Robert Owen purchased the former gas station known as Emery’s on Waterbury-Stowe Road. Now, they’ve opened GoodFire dispensary on the lot, adding another cannabis operation to the town’s offerings.
“We initially thought we’d renovate [Emery’s], but then it was beyond repair,” Vallecillo said. “We ended up partnering with our architect, Joe Green, as well as a larger team to build this place.”
Many of the cannabis strains GoodFire sells come from local cultivators, including Upstate Elevator, best known for its flavored CBD seltzers found in supermarkets across Vermont.
“Laura, their sales representative, dropped off samples of their new THC line while the building was still under construction,” said Vallecillo. “We started a dialogue from there, and they’ve been wonderful to work with.”
Partnerships like that are important to Vallecillo and Owen: They want their dispensary to feel local. Walking in, you can’t miss the four glassblown rolling trays made by local artist Sam Lightner in the store’s first display case.
“We heard about Sam through word-of-mouth, and she designed these one-of-a-kind trays,” Vallecillo said. “They don’t even necessarily look like rolling trays — they could just be art on your table at home.”
How does Lightner do it? “I’ll get a big blob of glass and smash it down and then either pull it into a leaf shape or flatten it out depending on the style I’m going for,” the artist said.
Neighboring the glassware inside, customers can see fresh bud of many different strains. Above the bud casing, a sheet of paper tells customers the strain’s name, its THC and CBD percentages and its weight. Customers can also hold their eyes up to the center of the bud’s case to look through a built-in magnifying glass that lets people get a closer look.
As a newcomer to the cannabis industry, Vallecillo found it valuable to enroll in a class at the University of Vermont on the medicinal and scientific properties of cannabis.
“One of my main takeaways was people use cannabis for different reasons,” said Vallecillo.
She added: “Everybody’s needs are different, and I think it’s important to start slow and move from there.”
GoodFire assistant manager Ben Eirdosh is taking a class on cannabis use, too.
Eirdosh and Vallecillo hope to take what they’ve learned and make their own training program for new hires, preparing them for any questions customers might have about using cannabis.
“Our mantra here is when someone comes in and says they’d like a sativa or indica, we respond with, ‘It’s all a hybrid,’” Eirdosh said.
That’s one of the main goals Eirdosh has for the new store. He wants to educate customers about the percentages of THC and CBD in each product displayed on GoodFire’s translucent shelves.
“All these strains are hybrids — they have a spectrum of chemistry that either lean towards activating or relaxing effects,” Eirdosh said.
But the crew at GoodFire says they want to make sure their customers don’t feel like they have to buy anything if they visit. And if someone is looking for something Goodfire doesn’t have, Vallecillo said she sends them to Waterbury’s other cannabis dispensary, Zenbarn Farms, up the street.
“There’s plenty of room for both dispensaries, so I don’t see it as competition,” Vallecillo said. “If I think they are the better fit for one of our customers, I will and have happily sent them there.”
Zenbarn Farms co-founder Noah Fishman also thinks it’ll be healthy for Waterbury to have multiple dispensaries in town.
“I think it’s great whenever the customer can have a choice for product,” Fishman said. “I hope that [with GoodFire], we can make Waterbury the premiere spot for cannabis in the country.”
Waterbury may have a third dispensary on the way, too. 31 Degrees North is listed in state records under the address of 2665 Waterbury-Stowe Road, and Jeff Hachmann, the owner of the property, expects the dispensary to open in early May.
“They’re preparing to open on May 5,” Hachmann said.
With cannabis lovers’ number one holiday on the horizon — 4/20 — the GoodFire team is planning to hold a grand opening to celebrate with a couple surprises in store.
“We’re going to have some cultivators here on 4/20 as we’re really trying to focus on the educational piece and getting good information out there and connecting customers with the growers they buy from,” Eirdosh said.
Vallecillo said Goodfire will also be selling joints at a $4.20 discount, raffling off tickets to the Heady Cup cannabis competition and hosting Upstate Elevator to sell and talk about their new THC products.
Vallecillo said she’s thrilled to see the longterm project finally up and running.
“It’s such a great industry to be in — there’s lots of love here and I’m glad cannabis is finally being recognized for the healing properties.”
The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.