May 12, 2020 at 2:17 pm Exclusive article by Carrie Pallardy
Exclusive Interview with Ascend Wellness Holdings Founder and CEO Abner Kurtin
Ascend Wellness has continued to ramp up its operations by taking a deep approach in a few select markets rather than spreading itself as wide as possible, as we highlighted last July. The multi-state operator has operations in the adult-use markets of Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts, as well as the medical markets of New Jersey and Ohio. AWH Founder and CEO Abner Kurtin spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about the company’s targeted growth strategy, approach to capital allocation and the timeline for opening more assets. The audio of the entire conversation is available at the end of this written summary.
Bringing on More Cannabis Experience
AWH has added to its management team as it scales up operations. Previously, the company had focused on bringing in outside CPG talent. Now, it has turned its eye toward cannabis experience. The company has added Chief Administrative Officer Leah Heise, who comes with previous industry experience at 4Front Ventures. Additionally, Roman Nemchenko, previously with Acreage Holdings, has joined the company as Controller.
Turning on Assets
AWH is working on opening up assets across its footprint. Right now, about 25 percent of its asset portfolio is open. The rest of its fully funded and licensed assets are under construction. But, its currently operating assets are generating significant success.
The company has two adult-use stores in Illinois, located in the Springfield and St. Louis areas. Its St. Louis-area store, Illinois Supply & Provisions, is averaging more than 1,000 transactions per day. AWH’s cultivation facility in the state has a run rate of more than 2,000 pounds every five weeks.
Inside an Ascend Wellness Retail Store
In Michigan, the company has one store open and plans to have four stores open in the next few months. By the middle of next year, the goal is to have 10 stores open. AWH’s processing facility in Lansing, Michigan is slated to open this summer, and its cultivation facility is expected to open at the end of the year.
In Massachusetts, AWH has done a number of harvests at its grow facility, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed construction in the state. The company hopes to have its retail store open by the end of the year and two additional stores open next year.
Looking at Additional Growth Opportunities
AWH is also expanding its footprint in Ohio and New Jersey. The company is growing a vertical operation in Ohio and nearing a definitive agreement in New Jersey. This agreement will allow the asset transfer of one of the original six licenses in the state. With only a handful of stores open now and the potential for adult-use legislation to pass this year, New Jersey represents a significant opportunity, according to Kurtin. AWH will be focused on the northern part of the state. It has secured a location just outside of the Paramus mall, a high-density area.
Other markets like Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York are of interest to the company, but AWH is largely focusing on its current states