MUSKEGON — A group of Michigan and Chicago-based entrepreneurs are developing a one-stop cannabis destination in Muskegon that would include a growing and processing facility, dispensary, consumption lounge, outdoor venue, restaurant and bar.
The $10 million Fields Cannary project would be located just east of U.S. 31 at 420 S. Harvey St. in Muskegon. The nearly 4-acre property contains an existing 11,000-square-foot Sons of Norway lodge, which would be renovated into the dispensary, restaurant and bar, and cannabis consumption lounge. A 17,000-square-foot processing center and greenhouse facility would be added to the site.
Project developers plan to hire about 45 people when Fields Cannary is completed in late summer or fall of 2023. Construction is set to begin this year by Grow America Builders LLC, an Illinois-based construction firm specializing in cannabis projects.
The Fields Cannary development team includes Muskegon native Cory Roberts — who served several years for a marijuana conviction — and Chicago natives Edgar and Joanne Ramon. Roberts and the Ramons are social equity applicants under the state’s cannabis guidelines because of Roberts’ marijuana conviction and the Ramons’ Hispanic ethnicity.
The Muskegon City Commission approved Roberts’ request on March 18, 2021, to allow recreational class B growing, processing, retail, designated consumption establishments and special events on the property.
“This is the most uniquely zoned cannabis property to my knowledge,” Roberts told MiBiz. “I’ve known a deeply rooted cannabis community in the West Michigan area, specifically in Muskegon. The city was the first to allow for the caregivers and compassion centers to take place and they stepped to the forefront of what residents requested with adult use.”
Once the rezoning request was approved, the development team “started exploring their options,” Roberts said.
Roberts and his wife, Lynette Roberts, also formed Michigan Cannabis Chefs LLC, which specializes in cannabis-infused meals. Cory Roberts said they have seen a “huge interest in cannabis and hospitality combined together.”
Roberts then connected with the Ramons when he hosted a cannabis dinner party through Michigan Cannabis Chefs. In addition to a shared interest in cannabis, Edgar Ramon brings a background in finance and emerging markets while Joanne Ramon has hospitality and event planning experience.
As Michigan’s heavily saturated cannabis market places financial pressure on many operators, Roberts and team have designed Fields Cannary with various energy-saving designs, including geothermal heating and cooling, to cut down on utility costs.
The three co-founders also brought on Grand Rapids residents and entrepreneurs Willie Jackson and Jonathan Jelks to lend their business and hospitality experience to Fields Cannary. Jackson and Jelks have launched several businesses over the years, including Motu Viget Spirits, and most recently The Botanical Co. dispensary in Middleville.
“It is an unprecedented project,” Jelks said. “Currently there is nothing in cannabis hospitality where entertainment is merged with consumption. The cannabis market has become extremely saturated, so now what consumers are looking for are more experience-based opportunities. Having an all encompassing bar, restaurant and consumption lounge will be the new industry trend. It also will add value to the local economy.”
Muskegon city leaders have been “visionaries” in helping the area grow in the cannabis space by allowing various types of businesses, Jelks said.
“Muskegon is extremely welcoming to cannabis-based ventures and found a way to eliminate barriers to entry,” Jelks said. “A lot of municipalities in the state have gotten bogged down in the minutiae and details that aren’t ultimately benefiting people gaining entry into the market. Muskegon is taking risks and allowing equity to happen authentically.”
The word “cannary” was selected to be the cannabis equivalent of a winery or brewery, said Edgar Ramon. The goal is to create an “immersive experience surrounded by beautiful vegetation,” at Fields Cannary, he said.
The Ramons are in the process of relocating from Chicago to Muskegon and plan to support day-to-day operations at Fields Cannary alongside Roberts.
“We like the idea of people being able to come there, speak with the growers, see it being grown, packaged, sold, learn more about the plant and not just be an in-and-out experience that retail currently offers,” Ramon said. “We’re looking forward to allowing that experience from seed to consumption.”