Business Government

Fine Fettle Applies to Open Cannabis Retail Establishment in West Hartford

Fine Fettle plans to open at 1232 Farmington Avenue in the former Liberty Bank branch space. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Town Council amended the cannabis ordinance several weeks ago, increasing the number of retail establishments permitted in town from two to three.

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford received a site plan application from Fine Fettle late last week, seeking approval to open an adult use cannabis retail establishment at 1232 Farmington Avenue, a 2,600-square foot space that has been vacant for roughly three years since the closing of the Liberty Bank branch in 2021.

The establishment would be Fine Fettle’s eighth retail location in Connecticut and West Hartford’s third cannabis retailer. Fine Fettle, which is headquartered in Connecticut, also has two locations in Massachusetts and is planning to open in Georgia.

“We’ve been looking around West Hartford for a long time,” Fine Fettle Chief Operating Officer Ben Zachs told We-Ha.com. But when Public Act No. 21-1, An Act Concerning Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis (RERECA), was first signed into law in July 2021, the rules related to Equity Joint Ventures required a certain distance between locations and that forced them to look elsewhere. When the Equity Joint Venture rules changed, treating growers and retailers differently, “West Hartford was back on the docket,” he said.

If approved, Fine Fettle would become West Hartford’s third and final cannabis retailer under the terms of the existing cannabis ordinance which was adopted in late May by the Town Council by a 6-3 vote. The original ordinance, adopted in 2022, was a temporary measure with a June 30, 2024 sunset date, prompting the Council to consider updates before adopting a permanent regulation.

Prior to the adoption of the amended ordinance, West Hartford zoning regulations only allowed two retailers to operate in town. BUDR opened in July 2023 and Sweetspot opened in February 2024 – both within a few blocks of each other at intersections with Prospect Avenue on the east side of town.

Fine Fettle was aware that the terms of West Hartford’s original cannabis ordinance would be expiring, and hopeful for an expansion of the number of establishments, especially since the two existing retailers are clustered together.

Rather than being in a place like the Center, where parking for a quick errand isn’t always simple to do, Zachs said they set their sights on other parts of town.

The ordinance ultimately adopted doesn’t allow retailers in the Center, Blue Back Square, or the business district of Elmwood, among other areas. It also adds a 5,000-foot buffer from other locations in addition to the 500-foot buffer from schools, parks, libraries, and other municipal recreational facilities.

“We want to be in places more where people live,” Zachs said. Many potential spots in Bishops Corner were ruled out because of the proximity to the library, he said.

When they found the Liberty Bank location in Sunset Triangle, it seemed like an ideal option. “It’s a great location,” he said, adding that they like the idea of being near the Stop & Shop because a grocery store is a good complementary business.

“We definitely wanted to be on the other side of town from the other two [dispensaries],” Zachs said. The proximity to Farmington and Avon, which both have bans on cannabis retailers, is also a plus for the 1232 Farmington Avenue spot, and it’s easy to get to from New Britain as well.

It’s a location that Zachs, who grew up in West Hartford and went to Solomon Schechter, knows well because he passed it every day on his way to school. Zachs’ parents still live in town.

“I am pleased to hear of the proposed location for the third cannabis store in the west end of town,” Mayor Shari Cantor told We-Ha.com on Friday. “The approval of the third location allows increased convenience and accessibility for medical and recreational adult use cannabis.”

“We are confident that our site plan meets all of the requirements,” Zachs said. While the site plan application, which is subject to administrative approval by Town Planner Todd Dumais, is still under review, Fine Fettle is already preparing construction documents so they will be ready for the next step as soon as possible.

“It should take us six months or so to get open, so by the end of the year,” Zachs said.

Fine Fettle has roughly 300 employees across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Georgia, he said. They plan to employ 10-14 people in West Hartford, the application indicates.

Zachs is excited about having a location in West Hartford. “Our office is in West Hartford. Our team is from Connecticut,” he said, noting that it’s been nearly six years since they first applied for a license in the state. They are also building a 46,000-square foot growing facility in Bloomfield, near the Copaco Shopping Center.

“Fine Fettle has a wonderful reputation in this new Connecticut industry and we look forward to having them as part of our community,” Cantor said.

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