Housing Works’ cannabis dispensary posts $12 million in sales in first six months

Customers shopping at Housing Works Cannabis Co.’s 1 Astor Place store in New York City.
Customers shopping at Housing Works Cannabis Co.’s 1 Astor Place store in New York City.
Housing Works Cannabis Co.

It has been a good year for Housing Works Cannabis Co.

The recreational cannabis store sold an estimated $12 million in cannabis products within its first six months of operation.

Lines wrapped around the block for hours when Housing Works Cannabis Co. opened its doors as New York’s first legal cannabis dispensary at 750 Broadway December 29, 2022, Gay City News reported. The 1 Astor Place store received more than 2,000 customer reservations before opening day and made 500 sales of an estimated $40,000 in a little more than three hours, according to the organization’s July 31 news release. They turned away 1,500 customers at closing time that first day.

It appears its popularity from its online and deliveries and retail store orders and pick-ups is only growing. The dispensary reported seeing as many as 1,000 unique visitors on busy days and that conversion rates, sales, and customer retention continue to be strong. Deliveries in select zip codes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens currently account for about 5-7% of sales, and pickup accounts for 18%-21%, Matthew Bernardo, president of Housing Works, the dispensary’s parent organization, said in an email interview with Gay City News. Housing Works has long provided services to clients impacted by HIV/AIDS and homelessness.

Bernardo added that deliveries will come to more zip codes soon.

More than a dozen dispensaries have opened since Housing Works Cannabis Co. opened its doors six months ago, but they don’t appear to be affecting the store’s sales, Bernardo said.

“There is a strong appetite for legal cannabis,” he said, noting the dispensary’s sales continue to grow month-over-month, exceeding $2 million in sales each month.

Customers wait in line at Housing Works' cannabis dispensary on Sunday, January 8, just weeks after it first opened.
Customers wait in line at Housing Works’ cannabis dispensary on Sunday, January 8, just over a week after it first opened.Donna Aceto

This has been an exhilarating learning experience for all of Housing Works,” said Bernardo said, who noted that the venture was “profitable right away to be able to support our mission and help New York City find innovative solutions to the multiple issues the city faces.”

Of the $12 million in sales, $1.8 million in taxes was generated for the State of New York, not including sales taxes on city and federal income tax on the dispensary’s earnings, according to Bernardo.

The Times Union reported that industry watchers noted within the first four months when Housing Works Cannabis Co. opened, the Empire State collected nearly $17 million in tax revenues from cannabis sales.

People watching New York’s new venture closely point out that the store will face legal and illegal competition, supply chain challenges, and high taxes that could add $1.25 billion to the Empire State’s coffers over the next six years, reported Bloomberg.

New products

Housing Works Cannabis Co.’s top-selling products are sativa and sativa-leaning hybrid strains, with flower, and edibles, particularly products that promote sleep and mitigate anxiety, according to the release.

The dispensary added 200 new products to its menu since it opened, according to the release. Many of the new products are produced by queer-, BIPOC- and women-owned and led companies. The dispensary currently stocks seven social equity brands, with more coming soon.

Product rollout continues to be something the dispensary struggles with, according to the dispensary’s retail manager, Sasha Nutgent. She added that the store continues to receive feedback from “some Black-owned brands that there is not enough funding to get their products into the market.”

However, Bernardo disagreed, stating in the early days of the dispensary’s opening there were some categories, such as edibles, “that were scarce — but that is no longer the case.”

“There is now ample supply of all categories of product available,” he said.

In June, Housing Works Cannabis Co. introduced its first Black-, woman-, and queer-owned brand, Brelixi, to its shelves, according to the release.

Other social equality brands include woman-led Fat Nell, BIPOC-owned and led The Weekenders, and queer-owned Flamer and Drew Martin.

“We proudly sell and promote these communities’ brands in our store,” he said noting the organization “has a long history of serving and supporting marginalized communities.”

Dispensary representatives said customers continue to come into the store and make purchasing decisions based on potency, signaling a need for more education on cannabis and its numerous uses, according to the release.

The dispensary is still building out the 4,400- square-foot space, built in 1883, known as 1 Astor Place, in the Housing Works signature style, Bernardo added. When completed it will feature a new case line, displays, outside window treatments, as well as an education center, permanent offices, and a back area, he said.

In the meantime, the dispensary is navigating the new environment in the face of challenges like the emergence of unlicensed dispensaries. Among the selling points for legal cannabis is the emphasis on safety.

We support the steps the state has taken to strengthen penalties for illegal dispensaries,” Bernardo said. “We encourage them to speed up enforcement efforts.”

Changing lives

Housing Works is a $136 million organization serving about 15,000 clients throughout New York annually, according to  executive director Charles King. The organization, which was one of the first to be awarded a CAURD license to operate a cannabis shop in the state of New York, currently employs 927 staff full-time, 55 staff part-time, and 41 per diem employees, according to a representative of the organization. The staff figures did not include dispensary employees, which now number 46 from approximately 15 when it opened, Bernardo said. The funds raised through its retail businesses — a bookshop and café and thrift stores — support a variety of social services: housing, health services, employment opportunities, and legal advocacy.

“The common denominators for those people are substance use disorder and experience with homelessness,” King told Gay City News in January. “We saw entering the cannabis market as a very direct way to address those issues.”

Bernardo said Housing Works is readying to launch an on-the-job training program early in the fall with the funds generated by the dispensary sales. 

Housing Works Cannabis Co. also expanded its hours Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The dispensary is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday. People must be 21 years of age or older to enter the store.