Will Hickox is the Operations Director for Goldfinch Dispensary and a partner in Discofries.
He currently works for Madwell based in Bushwick in Brooklyn. It’s a unique firm where he specializes in food and operational consulting. It’s owned by Chris Sojka, who is from Freehold Borough and the main owner of Goldfinch Dispensary.
They wanted a unique name for their dispensary. So they went with Goldfinch, which happens to be the State Bird of New Jersey.
Hickox said that “Discofries” resonates with a lot of people since they’re a New Jersey dish.
“If you’re from New Jersey, you get it. If you don’t, it’s fine. It’s still really memorable,” he argued.
Getting NJ-CRC Approval
Hickox said to save money, they wrote their cannabis license application themselves that they sent to the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) with minimal help from consultants. They scrambled to get in the day the portal opened.
“Most of the applications we wrote or re-wrote with what they helped us out with,” he noted. “The State did put out rules and regs… that were robust.. but was simple enough to read. I do commend them on that.”
They went for an annual license with Goldfinch Dispensary since they had found a property.
But then there was silence for months.
They finally heard back from the NJ-CRC last September when they had to address cures or errors in their application and resubmit it.
The NJ-CRC approved their dispensary license in March at the same time as their cultivator, then known as CSDE Manufacturing LLC, which has been renamed Discofries.
“It’s kind of been a big journey,” Hickox said. “Now we’re sort of getting in the groove of getting ready to open up.”
While they have made great progress, “it’s been a struggle every step of the way. I’m not exaggerating.”
Winning Goldfinch Dispensary Approval in Freehold Borough
Sojka spent his childhood in Freehold Borough. While his family did end up moving to nearby Manalapan, they would often visit downtown.
“It holds a special place in his heart,” Hickox said of Freehold Borough.
He explained that Sojka’s stepfather had a business in the borough for a time.
Hickox noted few towns in Monmouth and Ocean Counties permit cannabis companies.
“We see it as an island in the desert,” he said. There’s a lot of people in the surrounding areas that will be consuming… coming to places like Freehold.”
Freehold Borough gave out resolutions in a strange initial round to four or five companies Hickox explained. But then they set up an application process comparable to the State’s.
“There was more focus on community engagement. Other than that, it was pretty similar,” he noted.
Like many towns, Freehold Borough is only allowing two New Jersey adult use recreational cannabis dispensaries. Hickox noted one of the applicants for an adult use cannabis dispensary is the now-open medical cannabis dispensary NJ Leaf.
“It was really only one additional spot,” he said. “It was down to the wire.”
Goldfinch Dispensary ultimately got its council resolution in December 2021. But getting the necessary Planning Board approval took till June
“They’ve been super supportive,” Hickox declared regarding Freehold Borough. “We’re super happy to be there.”
Cannabis Company Location Issues
But not having heard from the NJ-CRC led to complications.
Finding a good location in the first place took a while. Securing real estate has been a significant problem for many New Jersey cannabis entrepreneurs.
“We went knocking on doors to find a retail location,” Hickox noted.
Ultimately, they found a store where the owner was looking to sell.
They made an agreement and were able to apply with a location. Unfortunately, they did not hear from the NJ-CRC, and their agreement expired.
“We had to pull the trigger on the property, or we would have lost it. We ended up purchasing the property,” Hickox said. “It was a huge, huge leap for us.”
They hope to start construction by the end of August. Goldfinch Dispensary hopes to open up by the end of the year or the beginning of next year. The company already has design plans.
He noted that an affluent area surrounds Freehold Borough.
“People do want a good shopping experience,” Hickox said. “They don’t want it to feel shady like you’re going to the corner store.”
Discofries Cannabis Cultivator
While Hickox is a partner in Discofries, David Eisenman, originally from Teaneck in Bergen County, is the main partner. Hickox said there’s great synergy between Goldfinch Dispensary and Discofries.
They’re not the only New Jersey cannabis company that wants more than one license.
“The quality is horrible. Everyone wins if the product is a little better,” he declared regarding the current market.
Hickox said they need high-quality products, so they want to create some themselves.
“It’s something that with a little bit of care, a little bit of effort into the plan, you can really produce something that’s great,” he explained.
“We’ve got an extremely talented partner that’s been growing in Oregon in their medical for 8 or 9 years,” Hickox said.
Adam Bush of the Archive Seed Bank of Oregon developed several cannabis strains like DoSiDo, and Moonbow, among others. He will lead their growing operation. Bush previously grew in Humbolt County, California in the Emerald Triangle as a legacy operator running away from the helicopters, Hickox explained.
Bush is planning to bring some of his special strains’ seeds, known as genetics, and develop some new ones.
“It’s going to take a few months before we have product to sell,” Hickox noted.
Unfortunately, they are a little further behind with Discofries. They are still in the Planning Board approval process. They hope to start construction this fall and finish by the first quarter of next year.
Their first harvest is likely to be next May or June.
“Hopefully, a little earlier,” he said.
Discofries wants to specialize in creating hash rosin, solventless extracted products, and hand-trimmed flower.
The lack of established cultivators in New Jersey is a significant issue. The NJ-CRC says eventually, prices will come down when more cannabis cultivators harvest.
Access to Capital Issues
While Goldfinch Dispensary had enough money to buy the building, it has not been easy. Securing access to capital has not been hard for many, and there are few options.
“We didn’t do a big equity raise. We have been bootstrapping it,” Hickox explained.
He noted they are in the process of getting a bank loan to begin construction. But the bank loan will be another big leap.
However, they still have a gap of operating capital needed to keep the doors open.