Amesbury’s second retail marijuana shop opens Wednesday

AMESBURY — Two years of overcoming obstacles, dealing with red tape and good old-fashioned hard work is expected to pay off for local resident Rob DiFazio today when his marijuana retail business, CNA Stores, opens its doors on Macy Street about 9:30 a.m.

“We finally get to open, it’s been a long, hard trail,” DiFazio said. “Yeah, we’re excited. It’s our hometown.”

The store at 77 Macy St. will be the second location opened by the U.S. Navy veteran, with the first opening in Haverhill two months ago.

Both stores will have opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, an age that has severely limited the number of people who can visit stores at one time and kept business owners awake at night wondering if they would be able to remain open at all.

“It’s definitely a concern,” DiFazio said, adding that keeping employees and customers safe is his top priority.

With state COVID-19 restrictions allowing only 25 percent occupancy in stores, that means only eight people, including staff, can be inside the 2,000-square-foot Amesbury store, DiFazio said.

A mask and a valid ID proving one is at least 21 years old are necessary to enter. The store accepts debit cards and cash. Its parking lot accommodates about 28 cars and is to be monitored by a security guard.

In addition to opening in the middle of a pandemic, CNA Stores (which stands for Completely Natural Alternatives) faces the challenge of competing against another cannabis dispensary, Alternative Therapies Group, which has been at nearby 40 Macy St. since February.

But DiFazio said he is not worried about the competition, calling ATG “apples” and CNA Stores “oranges.”

“It all depends on the fruit you like,” he said.

DiFazio added that he believes CNA’s local roots, its ties to the community and the fact that he is a Navy veteran will go a long way in distinguishing his store from competitors.

The store’s first customer will be the chain’s director of business development, Scott Winters, who said he was going to pick up some edibles and a few prerolled marijuana cigarettes.

“My girlfriend wants specific things,” Winters said.

DiFazio said he hopes to establish a culture at his stores that draws people inside and brings them back. The key, he said, is hiring good employees, the kind who leave an indelible impression and make customers feel welcome.

“Your business is only as good as your employees,” he said.

Store manager Jackie Deorocki said the staff has been trained to offer a customer experience that will “exceed Massachusetts cannabis industry expectations.”

“Whether you’re a first-time customer or an experienced user of cannabis products, staff members will be available to answer questions and help identify the products that are right for you,” Deorocki said.

The store will be open Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. and Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Walk-in customers are welcome since no appointments are required. For more information, visit cnastores.com.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.