“It’s not just about Bud’s Goods, it’s about the industry itself. A lot of operators are focused on the greed part. You have to focus on the industry and make sure the haters remain quiet.”
Some cannabis brands are just trying that much harder. Whether on the retail or manufacturing side of the industry, their products and appearance are especially inviting, making for more of an experience rather than just another high.
Bud’s Goods & Provisions, which up to now has had locations in Worcester and Abington, is one of those businesses going the extra mile. From the look of their stores with spectacular murals to the curation of their actual goods and merchandising, there’s a clear concept in play.
With their third store—this one in Watertown—opening this Friday, May 20, we spoke with Founder and CEO Alex Mazin about his vision for “creating a welcoming and comfortable retail environment while also providing hard-working New Englanders premium products without premium pricing.”
Give us a little more background on the brand.
I care deeply about the industry and I care about doing it in a manner that is memorable. I’m not trying to listen to lawyers every day. I listen to them compliantly, but I push the envelope. If a customer is supposed to come into a “mantrap vestibule,” I’m going to call it a foyer and make it very experiential while you’re getting your ID checked.
When I got into this in 2014, there was only West Coast this and West Coast that. And I kept thinking, What does a New England brand look like? And, Who does a New England brand cater to? To me, New England is patriotism, and red, white, and blue, and Paul Revere, and the Boston Tea Party. And growing up in Worcester, it’s easy for me to connect with what that means.
Ultimately, developing an authentic New England cannabis brand has always been our mission. And in our stores, from a visual standpoint, that’s been modern Americana. Hopefully the Abington store will give you old school movie theater vibes, that was the inspiration behind it.
It seems like there are a lot of influences in the murals, from sports to nautical. What are some of the Easter eggs in there that you’re particularly fond of?
If you look at the posters and the way we display products, it should remind you of going to an old movie theater. And the mural on the wall, that was me watching the cameras for weeks and seeing how customers would stand around with nothing to do. I figured if our average wait time is five minutes during busy hours, if I could do something to distract them for two-and-a-half minutes, that’s half of the time that they’re not going to be fidgeting and feeling uncomfortable. And so I thought, let’s make it fun and develop a historical timeline. It’s all about engagement without engaging.
Are the Bud’s sneakers on display for sale?
They are not, but as a company, [for employees] after your first year with us, you get to choose whether you want Converse or a custom Vans pair of sneakers. I want people to know who is putting in the dedication. We are also going to start scaling our merchandise now that customers are starting to request it.
How much do you focus on a category even if it’s not such a popular category? I love dabs, and you have a great selection whereas not all places do.
We’re an independent retailer. We don’t grow our own flower, we’re not owned by an out-of-state operator. With this Watertown store we’re actually going to be the only independently owned non-vertical retailer in the state to reach our three cap maximum. We really focus on retail.
I’m only 35 years old. I don’t have the skill or the capital or any of those things to take on vertical retail, manufacturing, and growing. And if you look across the board, those people are failing. I believe from a licensing standpoint that good retail locations will always exist—I can’t say that about anything else. A good retail location is a good retail location.
Our job is to curate the best retail in the state, and that’s what makes us unique. We’re not biased toward a certain grow. Many of the retails you go into are vertically integrated—whether they’re growing good or bad flower, they’re going to sell that.
And as far as location, there’s a lot of dispensaries in Brockton, which isn’t far from Abington, but otherwise there’s not too much around that location due to municipal opt-outs.
The South Shore has the least amount of municipalities that have opted out of adult-use sales. Brockton is kind of an anomaly. In Abington, I’m in kind of a donut hole, though there are two in Rockland.
You have a wide variety, how do you go about keeping up on what’s available in the market?
As the market continues to grow you’re going to see more and more smaller cultivators on our menu that you aren’t going to see everywhere. I’m on the ground, I’m making those relationships. People are mistaking this industry as being a big industry, but in reality it’s super small and you have to be hustling and grinding. Today you buy something from a cultivator, and tomorrow you don’t, because it doesn’t meet the standards of quality.
It’s not just about Bud’s Goods, it’s about the industry itself. A lot of operators are focused on the greed part. You have to focus on the industry and make sure the haters remain quiet.
Will Bud’s be doing delivery?
I haven’t ventured into delivery at all. I’ve spoken to everyone, I keep track of what’s going on, I don’t believe delivery is a viable business in Massachusetts at the moment. I don’t think it’s a big thing consumers are seeking out just yet.
Tell us about Bud’s foray into cryptocurrency …
Crypto is something that I track and monitor, and we were approached by one of my investors who said, Hey, why don’t you launch a payment portal for crypto in your stores, and if it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. And it made me think, there’s all this buzz about crypto, and if I don’t put it in my stores, I don’t know if there’s a future here. I wanted to see it for myself. Look, it’s not a full focus of ours. But I like to be first. That’s an important piece of cannabis in general. It wasn’t that hard to set up, and I put it into motion.
My mom actually goes to one of your stores for CBD products and feels comfortable there.
That’s great, that’s what I want to hear. I always tell everyone at the company that the majority of consumers don’t consume today. When you realize the power of that statement, you realize how much work there is to do. If someone is going to give us a chance, we can’t fuck that up. We need everyone’s mother to walk in and say, This is not what I was expecting. That is a much bigger opportunity than people who are consuming today.
Tell us a little bit about the Watertown store.
It’s the only retail store in the state that is in the same building as residential apartment units. It’s our third store, and I think it’s going to be the show-stopper of all our retail experiences. We have themes for all of our stores, and this is Bud’s Home, so we have multiple rooms. When you come in, you get your ID checked on the porch. Then you walk into the pantry, that’s where we feature all of our edibles and consumables and topicals, and then you walk into the library, where we feature all of our flower and concentrates and pre-rolls, then the living room, with all our merchandise and apparel. It’s very experiential and very cool.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.