A tuxedo shop that was a fixture in Muhlenberg Township for decades will become a medical marijuana dispensary.
Township commissioners unanimously approved Harvest Inc.’s plan to retrofit the building at 2701 N. Fifth St. Highway.
Jack O’Reilly Tuxedos, which has conducted business at the location for 35 years, is expected to close this week.
Based in Tempe, Ariz., Harvest Inc. has medical marijuana dispensaries, growing and processing plants in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois and Maryland and is expanding into Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Arkansas.
Construction is expected to cost about $1.1 million, according to Joe Kachuroi, an independent real estate broker who finds locations for Harvest Inc.
Township manager Jamal Abodalo said Harvest Inc. plans to retrofit the building, built more than 60 years ago, to comply with the zoning ordinance and the Fifth Street Highway Revitalization guidelines.
“The front part of the building is going to be cut back about 15 to 20 feet, and that will create the 5-foot sidewalk as well as an area for landscaping,” Abodalo said. “In addition to the grass apron separating the curb from the sidewalk, there will be about 20 feet from the edge of the curb to the edge of the building.”
A two-story portion of the building will be demolished, creating more parking spaces, for a total of about 20.
Although Harvest’s building’s exteriors may vary, the Muhlenberg dispensary’s interior will have a look and feel that is consistent with others in the company, Kachuroi said.
Harvest is expected to hire about 20 people.
The company will hire local construction, engineering and architectural firms, Kachuroi said.
“We employ, hired and train as much as we can locally. That is part of our business model,” he said.
The dispensary must be operational by Dec. 29 as stipulated by the state Department of Health.
Kachuroi said Harvest considers community outreach important and will provide free guidance and prescribed medical marijuana to families who cannot afford it.
The status of the township’s other medical marijuana dispensary, Franklin BioScience-Penn LLC, which was awarded a license to operate at 3225 N. Fifth St. Highway, less than a mile from Harvest’s location is unclear.
Franklin BioScience, based in Colorado, was given permission by the state to move to another location because it does not want to pay Muhlenberg’s host fee that would cover the costs for extra police services that could be necessary.
“They are still more than welcome. The township wants them to come,” Abodalo said.
Abodalo said extra security may be necessary because medical marijuana is a cash-only business. And although it may be years down the road, he said, Pennsylvania could eventually allow recreational use of marijuana, as does Colorado and California.
“We are one of the early pioneers in the field,” he said. “We have no idea how this is going to evolve, but we hope for the best.”
It is no accident that Muhlenberg Township potentially has two dispensaries.
After Pennsylvania approved medical marijuana, Abodalo went to township officials to convince them of its economic revitalization potential. The township courted medical marijuana dispensaries, growers and processors.
“We jumped on the bandwagon,” he said.
“Muhlenberg Township is a very forward-thinking township, and we are very friendly toward business.”
The township commissioners last week granted Franklin BioScience’s request for another conditional use hearing.