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Devine Berkshires

Devine Berkshires is the first Black-owned pot shop in the Berkshires. It’s also a do-it-yourself success story set in Egremont

A March opening of the town's first and only cannabis store

heidi and ari zorn with son isiah

Heidi and Ari Zorn and their son, Isiah, at their recreational cannabis shop, Devine Berkshires in South Egremont, which opens in March. The shop will make Ari Zorn the first person of color to hold a cannabis license in the Berkshires, and according to Zorn, the fourth person of color to hold a license in the state.

EGREMONT — There are no pricey consultants or specialty lawyers. There is no corporate machinery.

Heidi and Ari Zorn stepped, nearly alone, into the regulatory maze required to open a cannabis shop.

It was Heidi. All Heidi, says her husband, Ari. He is looking around the Main Street store, Devine Berkshires, admiring her work on everything from carpentry, carving and painting to her skill and fortitude conquering hurdles in an industry that appears stacked against mom and pop-style ownership.

So, a community backed them, and showered them with love and support, Ari says. They crowdfunded nearly $100,000, and have almost 100 investors.

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interior at Devine Berkshires
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heidi and ari zorn
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heidi and ari zorn with son isiah
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interior at Devine Berkshires
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interior at Devine Berkshires

Now, Devine Berkshires on Main Street is set to open in March. Their son, Isiah, will be their first employee.

The couple bucked the establishment. They rolled up their sleeves and, for three years — with help from Heidi’s attorney sister, Christina Schenk-Hargrove — sweated their way to Feb. 10, when they received their final license.

“I didn’t have to pay $60,000 for a consultant; I could just have a conversation with five different people,” Heidi said.

Yes, Ari says, he’s the first Black person in Berkshire County to receive a cannabis license, and the fourth in the state. The fitness coach and activist sees the beauty in this, though the bureaucratic structure to categorize “minorities” during licensing “offends” him. He says he still sees a lot of unfairness in a system that is keeping people of color out of the industry. But, that’s another story, he says. He wants to talk about Heidi.

“Everything’s been about ‘Black,’ and I get why, but … she did this,” he said. “And credit to her and her sister for how brilliantly they ripped through that [Cannabis Control Commission] application, and how much money we have spent to date to what [the industry is] telling people what it takes.”

Heidi, who also is a chiropractor and mother, amazed some of the industry “big boys” who hired legions of staff to do what she did.

“They really can’t grasp that,” she said. “I really did do that whole thing. Actually, I can’t really grasp the whole thing either.”

A solid marriage and partnership fueled their success. It hasn’t been easy on a union. They scrapped their initial idea to open a CBD store while they waited on the cannabis license. There was local permitting in a town that closed the door to other cannabis entrepreneurs behind them — theirs would be the first and only. There was a pandemic to create uncertainty, and landlord troubles — they said he was slow to do work they required for handicap accessibility. This delayed their licensing timeline, but they carried on.

“Her strength, my strength — right together,” Ari said.

They talk about sticking points along the licensing road. The intricacies of it, and the attempts to define which “minorities” are eligible for programs and fast-tracking — Ari doesn’t think these are helping the people who need it, and that it’s all superficial politics.

interior at Devine Berkshires

With its March opening, Devine Berkshires will become South Egremont’s first recreational cannabis shop. Heidi Zorn did much of the interior work herself. 

The Zorns talk about absurdities, like a world in which alcohol is easy to buy. They look up — the floorboards overhead creak with people walking through the wine shop upstairs.

“Sometimes it feels over-the-top ridiculous,” Heidi said. “You have to have 14 blocks to get to the weed that’s in the back room. It’s like something more than gold.”

The Zorns say the reason, in large part, is that the state is padding its coffers.

Map of Devine Berkshires

“This year it surpassed alcohol revenue,” Heidi said, standing behind the new counter she had to redo because the state said it wasn’t high enough. She took care of that herself, too.

The windows look out to a rushing Karner Brook.

“It’s almost still not like reality,” Heidi said. “We’ve been sitting in this space for so long. The day that a customer walks through the door … “

“... I might get down on the ground and cry,” Ari said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

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