Retail Legal Marijuana Coming Soon to Blubber Hollow

It’s finally gonna happen. Two years after the voters of Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum establishing legal recreational sale of marijuana, a retail pot shop is opening soon in Salem. In Blubber Hollow to be exact, and so falling within the purview of this blog covering all matters Gallows Hill, Blubber Hollow (the “front door” to Gallows Hill), and Witchcraft Heights (the “back door” to Gallows Hill). (Hyperlink)

On Tuesday Nov 21, the same day that the first two retail marijuana dispensaries opened in western Massachusetts to a roaring trade, The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) voted to award a final license to Alternative Therapies Group (ATG) for adult-use sales at its Blubber Hollow location. The ATG application was fast-tracked because it already runs a medical marijuana dispensary at 50 Grove St in Blubber Hollow. ATG was the first marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts when it opened June 24, 2015, a historic occasion.

But hold your horses, there are still several crucial hurdles to overcome. 1) seed-to-sale tracking needs to be implemented and tested; 2) approval to transfer inventory from the medical program to the adult-use program must be received from the Medical Use of Marijuana Program at the Department of Public Health; 3) a final inspection from the CCC must be passed. Best guess it’ll be 3-4 weeks, so the week before Xmas a Cannabis Caravan will descend upon Blubber Hollow.

50 Grove St ATG

Alternative Therapies Group Blubber Hollow

ATG is housed in a former factory, one building over from the Moose Hall, site of many public civic events. Amid the desolation of Blubber Hollow, across a parking lot from the derelict remains of Salem Oil and Grease, ATG and the Loyal Order of Moose are scant pockets of life and spirit. But in about three weeks it’s going to become a lot more lively, a lot more spirited. Marijuana puns a-plenty to come.

So lively that there’s now worry of an impending traffic apocalypse, so much so that it caught the attention of the regional cable news network. You’d think that a city that handles the deluge of tourist traffic every October would be calmer about the lesser wave of pot traffic, but no. Reports of the traffic that flooded Leicester to shop at the Cultivate pot shop there have stirred panic among Salem residents and officials.

Though ¾ of Massachusetts residents live within the I-495 belt, ½ within the Route 128 belt, the CCC in its infinite wisdom licensed the first two shops in Leicester, west of Worcester and some 100 miles from Salem, and in Northampton, near Springfield and some 150 miles from Salem. The two other shops approved by the CCC on the same day as ATG will offer little respite: one is in Wareham down by the Cape and the other is in Easthampton next to Northampton. Two pot shops in the Pioneer Valley and nary a one in Boston!? Why should the Pioneer Valley get all the fun?

Meaning that for the next four to six months, until a pot shop opens in Boston itself (a location on Friend St in the West End a block from North Station seems the leading contender), ATG in Salem will be the go to destination for Greater Boston potheads. Hence the fear over traffic.

What is omitted in interviews and news reports is that ATG is only a half mile from the Salem Depot, one of the busiest commuter rail stations and bus stations in the MBTA system. Pot shoppers can hop on a train at Boston’s North Station and reach Salem in 30 min, then a pleasant 10-15 walk mostly through Leslie’s Retreat Park to ATG, and voila, no parking headaches. Moreover, two bus lines from Haymarket in Boston terminate at the Salem Depot. Really, all this should be made better known.

Perhaps if demand becomes great enough the MBTA will even run extra Cannabis trains, much as it runs special Halloween trains to Salem every October.

As a service to incoming pot shoppers to make the commuting convenience better known, this blog offers the following map. atg-to-salem-depot-map.jpgJourney as the bird flies is red dashed line; walking is blue dashed line. At ATG itself is 150 spaces, shared with the Moose Hall so allocation to be worked out. Nearby parking, besides the 700 spaces at the T garage (rarely above 70% capacity) include: some 50 spaces inside Mack Park; 120 spaces each at the Senior Center and St James lots; some 25 spaces in Leslie’s Retreat park; another 120 spaces at the Bridge St lot.

The Senior Center and St James lots are freely open, but if the marijuana parking apocalypse does materialize it’s sure that parking concessions at those sites will be turned over to enterprising high school students to raise money for student programs, much as is already done with those and other lots on Halloween. The Bridge St commuter lot is paid through a ticket kiosk, but that concession could be turned over to school groups as well. Ditto for the smaller parking lots within the two nearby parks.

By law recreational marijuana shops can only sell the weed, not the pipes and bongs and such needed to “employ” the weed, but not to worry, Salem’s best head shop is right across the street (see map above).


Salem Market, Goodhue & Grove Streets

The Salem Market seems a conventional convenience store from the outside, but step inside and it’s a bountiful emporium of bongs. Plus, knowing their customer base well, there’s an immense collection of Doritos chips.

The excitement, alas, will likely not last.

Much of the commotion will be quelled once the Cannabis Control Commission approves additional store licenses across the state — a move expected to alleviate the strong demand placed on the existing shops.

In the meantime, there’s tax revenue to enjoy. The Cultivate shop in Leicester did $2 million of sales in its first 5 days. The town of Leicester gets 6% of that. ATG, once it’s open, is sure to exceed that figure.


Left out another way enterprising souls could profit from the upcoming Salem pot gold rush. Local Uber drivers could slap a magnetic weed decal on the side of their vehicles and run a shuttle between ATG and Salem Depot. Say $5 per person for the half-mile trip, several hundred trips per day, talking real money here.

Image result for weed van

On the matter of what Salem gets, there’s a 20% tax on marijuana sales, 6% to the city and 14% to the state, actually a little less considering administrative costs. Given that the two existing pot shops in far-away Western Massachusetts manage $1 million in sales per week, ATG placed inside the Greater Boston area should easily match, if not exceed, that sales rate. So 6% over 50 weeks means about $3 million a year to Salem, minimum. Will pay for a lot of elderly citizen councilors and park maintenance workers.


Construction in Blubber Hollow. October Update.

With the new Senior Center (aka Mayor Jean Levesque Community Life Center) at 401 Bridge St completed  and open for business, the culmination of a 25 year effort begun by former Salem Mayor Jean Levesque, attention to this building project ends. Focus turns accordingly to the construction of River Rock Apartments across Bridge St, built into and atop the rock ledge jutting up between Goodhue and Boston Streets.


To the left six townhouses stretch along Boston St. To the right a Mansard-roofed apartment building follows the curve of Goodhue St

The intricately framed roof of the townhouses is finally fully done, months in the making. What with multiple types of dormers and gables it was a challenge, but no humdrum facade here. Just in time for winter the building is all buttoned up with windows and doors and roofing installed, so that plumbing and electrical work can be undertaken with negligible exposure to the wintry winds. Townhouse condos should be available for sale by late spring.

On the other side the mixed use (residential & commercial) apartment building is just a couple of months from completion. Interior wallboard of walls and ceilings is almost fully installed, so what remains is installation of fixtures (cabinets and vanities), paint, and flooring. The appealing polychromatic multi-textured exterior facade is, apart from a few strips and corners, complete as well.

River Rock Goodhue side

Artist vision of Goodhue side. Note obligatory bicyclist (there’s one in every image at web site) and superfluous jet contrails overhead

The River Rock Residences will offer amenities not before seen in Salem. To wit: on-site dog park (no dragging Ginger to the dog park across town); covered garage parking for all tenants (no dragging your gear to car through sheets of rain); on-site bicycle storage (no dragging your bicycle upstairs); on-site 24/7 fitness center (no dragging your tired sorry ass to the fitness center across town);  expansive community room with working fireplace (no dragging relatives across town to a rented hall for that family reunion).

This month there is a new entry to the construction updates, the Ice Cream Way condo residences, still in Blubber Hollow but on the other side of the North River abutting the Mack Park area of the North Salem neighborhood. A four building project, the centerpiece being the conversion of a nearly century old Hood ice cream factory into ten condos. The conversion challenges, as the creamery was constructed with two-foot thick concrete walls, giving the jackhammer operators who had to open new portals into the structure an exhausting run for their money.

Ice Cream Way pre-construction

Former Hood Creamery before conversion

Another conversion of a different sort on the property is incorporating a three-family house of modest Queen Anne style, formerly at 3A Buffum Street Extension, into a line of seven townhouse-style condos.

74 Buffum St Ext pre-construction

The conversion/ extension retained the Queen Anne stylistic touches (high-pitched gables, dramatic overhanging eaves, delicate front porches) while turning the front entrance from Buffum St Ext to the newly named Ice Cream Way. Each townhouse has unique markings (position and types of gables and dormers) such that no two are identical.

Ice Cream Way - house conversion

New on left, old on right

It’s difficult to distinguish old from new construction in this line of townhouses, just this month finished and made available for purchase (though viewing presently requires walking over muddy plywood sidewalks). Two more lines of similar townhouses are planned, one in the framing stage across Ice Cream Way, and the other planned beside the factory once the conversion of the factory reaches its end stages.

This remarkable mixture of new construction with rehab of old structures is being undertaken by Juniper Point Investments, a local property development firm making a name for itself rehabbing downtrodden residences along and near Bridge St. Not to be confused with some half-dozen other firms across the nation also named Juniper Point, including, to sow confusion, other Juniper Point real estate firms. In actuality the local firm is named for the Juniper Point community at the tip Salem Neck, but who knew that many other communities adopted the mellifluous name.