The Travel Agency is set to open a new dispensary in Downtown Brooklyn.
Photo courtesy of The Travel Agency
One of New York City’s original licensed marijuana dispensaries is set to open a new store in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store — formerly named Union Square Travel Agency, after its first location, which opened in Manhattan last spring — is preparing to open a pop-up shop at 122 Flatbush Ave. as it builds out a permanent location right next door.
According to its founders, The Travel Agency will be the first licensed dispensary in New York to open a second location — and it will be among the first legal dispensaries in Brooklyn, which saw its first-ever legal recreational marijuana store open in Gravesend last month.
Like the Union Square location, The Travel Agency pop-up will carry a “curated selection of premium products,” including vapes, flower, edibles and pre-rolls.
The store will be staffed by roughly 60 highly-trained “budtenders,” founder Arana Hankin-Biggers told Brooklyn Paper, who will help educate customers about their products, choose what’s right for them, and use it responsibly.
“We get a lot of repeat customers, folks who kind of know what they want and get in and get out,” she said. “But our budtenders are always super eager and very passionate about the industry and about the products, so they’re always super willing and eager to talk to customers who want to spend more time learning about the various different products that they carry.”
The company strives to carry BIPOC and women-owned brands, Hankin-Biggers said, as a significant part of its mission is to lift up people who were disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.
As part of that mission, The Travel Agency has partnered with justice-impacted people in both of its locations. When New York State legalized recreational marijuana, it was on the condition that the first wave of licenses would be granted to people who had been harmed by the War on Drugs.
In Downtown Brooklyn, the company is working with GMDSS LLC, which is owned by a Brooklynite with a prior cannabis conviction. GMDSS LLC holds the dispensary license from the state, and is the official owner of the store.
That partnership in Brooklyn will reflect The Travel Agency’s current partnership with The Doe Fund at their Manhattan store, Hankin-Biggers said — more than half of the store’s profits are directed toward The Doe Fund, according to the company’s website.
The Doe Fund provides transitional housing, job training, and other resources to formerly-incarcerated and homeless men, including some who first entered the justice system on marijuana-related charges at a young age, Hankin-Biggers said.
The Travel Agency also works closely with the Cannabis Justice and Equity Initiative, which was founded by Doe Fund graduate Terrence Coffie.
CJEI recently launched a cannabis training program for formerly incarcerated people, and The Travel Agency supported the first 25-person cohort – and hired a number of graduates to work in Union Square, Hankin-Biggers said. They will be recruiting more people from the program to work in Brooklyn.
The partnership with GMDSS LLC came as The Travel Agency held tours of its dispensary and worked to support cannabis license holders, Hankin-Biggers said. GMDSS LLC had its license, which was awarded in May, but needed support.
Shortly after they joined forces, they found the “amazing space” on Flatbush Avenue and got to work building the new store.
The Travel Agency will work out of its pop-up location — which is set to open any day, as soon as the state’s Office of Cannabis Management completes its final inspection — for about three months before the permanent location is finished.
New York City is still flooded with gray-market stores illegally selling cannabis products, but Hankin-Biggers said that while convincing shoppers to switch to a legal dispensary isn’t always easy, she feels it’s worth it.
That’s in part because of the people employed at the stores — The Travel Agency does not require former retail or dispensary training, but does require a paid weeklong training on the history of cannabis and how it impacts the body, so the budtenders have a thorough knowledge of the products.
There are also the products themselves, she added, which are tightly regulated and thoroughly labeled, so shoppers know what they’re getting – whether they’re experienced marijuana users or first-timers.
“It’s almost really impossible to have a bad experience when you’re shopping legal, because the product is a lot safer,” Hankin-Biggers said. “I think the cannabis you can get at the legal dispensaries is not going to give you paranoia, or make you high for hours and hours. It’s just a really calm and happy high.”