COVID-19 leads Grand Rapids restaurateur to cannabis industry

GRAND RAPIDS — When indoor dining was prohibited across the state last year and earlier this year because of COVID-19, Davide Uccello turned to the cannabis industry as a sector that managed to be successful despite lockdown orders.

Uccello is the co-owner of Flo’s Collection restaurant group — which operates four restaurants in Kent and Montcalm counties — and he is now also a partner at the new Exclusive Brands dispensary that opens Friday in Grand Rapids. Davide Uccello is related to the owners of Uccello’s Hospitality Group, but Flo’s Collection is separate from the Uccello’s restaurant chain.

Davide Uccello

Exclusive Brands has partnered with Flo’s Collection in the opening and operation of its new Grand Rapids dispensary that will create 40 retail associate jobs. Under the partnership, Uccello invested in the location and will help oversee hiring and operations.

“The restaurant industry took a very large hit due to COVID-19,” Uccello told MiBiz. “We were looking into the cannabis industry prior to the pandemic, but COVID-19 and the huge accomplishment of cannabis being deemed an essential business sped that process up.”

Exclusive Brands’ flagship location in Ann Arbor was the first licensed recreational cannabis dispensary in Michigan. Exclusive Brands has another location that opened six months ago in Kalamazoo.

The new dispensary in Grand Rapids is located at 2350 29th St. SE. The business is celebrating its grand opening this weekend with a ribbon cutting on Sunday.

The 2,050-square-foot facility is also licensed for cannabis grow operations, which is still in the construction phase but planned to be rolled out in late summer or early fall of 2021, Uccello said.

Exclusive Brands partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan on the build out at the Grand Rapids dispensary that included energy efficiency throughout the building.

Roughly $1 million has been invested in the retail buildout of the Grand Rapids Exclusive Brands dispensary, Uccello said, which does not include construction on the cultivation side of the business. The Grand Rapids location has hired 40 with more expected as the growing becomes operational, Uccello said.

Uccello partnered with Exclusive Brands after looking for a company with industry experience in Michigan. He was also impressed with Exclusive Brands’ social equity commitments.

“Being in my hometown, it means even more to me being able to give back like what we’ve always done on the restaurant side,” Uccello said. “It’s been more difficult to do that this past year. With this, I’m relieved to call those organizations (we’ve supported previously) back again and help them through this new business.”

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