Near West Side marijuana dispensary open for business
April 8, 2017

By Jake Ekdahl

The medical marijuana dispensary originally planned for the Fulton Market area has opened instead on the Near West Side. The Herbal Care Center (THC for short) is located at 1301 S. Western Ave. near the Illinois Medical District. The site formerly held a Firestone Auto Care shop.

Owner Perry Mandera, a trucking executive, also owns the Cardinal Fitness gym and VIP’s Gentlemen’s Club.

Marijuana has been legal for medical purchase in Illinois since November 2016, but dispensaries have only recently begun to open. “We really wanted to be a wellness shop, and not just a cannabis dispensary,” said Hunter Sutterfield, who manages The Herbal Care Center. Sutterfield previously managed the Harvest of Tempe dispensary in Arizona.

Sutterfield was optimistic about The Herbal Care Center’s location, with so many healthcare facilities nearby.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., in whose 27th Ward Mandera originally hoped to open the dispensary, opposed a medical marijuana dispensary in the Fulton Market area because the West Loop community did not want it there.

Sutterfield said the company saw no such resistance in its new location. “Things are going great,” he noted. “The community reacted very well, very welcoming,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) has said he has no objection to The Herbal Care Center’s location and agrees its proximity to hospitals makes sense.

“He’s been wonderful,” Sutterfield said of Ervin. Sutterfield said Illinois has proceeded cautiously in opening medical marijuana dispensaries.

“You see in other states like Arizona, they have upwards of 120,000 patients in their medical cannabis program, and you look at us, and we have around 17,000,” he explained, noting Illinois “has only released so many licenses, and I don’t have information on whether they will issue any more.”

The State has issued 52 licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries. Though The Herbal Care Center faces limited competition at the moment, Sutterfield feels confident the center has created a good experience for patients.

“We pride ourselves with having the most diverse and largest inventory in the state, and that goes not just with cannabis but with wellness products as well,” Sutterfield said. “A cannabis patient, when they come here, they don’t have to go somewhere else for glass, or vaporizers, or their vitamins or minerals. This truly is a one-stop shop. But at the same time, we also take very intensive measures to make sure we are serving the freshest product: we vacuum seal everything as soon as it comes in and make sure to keep it under the right temperature and humidity. That kind of sets us apart as well.”