DeKalb County’s first marijuana dispensary opens

Excelleaf, the county’s first recreational cannabis dispensary, held a soft opening Friday.

One of the Excelleaf owners Maria Davis (middle) and budtender Jamie Cardenaz help customer Steve Guadagnoli, 79, of DeKalb, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, during the soft opening of the dispensary in DeKalb. The business is DeKalb County’s first recreational marijuana dispensary.

DeKALB – Jessica Beatrice said she was excited to learn that Excelleaf was planning to have a soft opening Friday.

So much so that the DeKalb resident was the first person in line waiting for staff to open the marijuana dispensary’s doors.

“Up until now, I had to drive up to North Aurora, which is like 45 minutes away,” Beatrice said. “It’s like five minutes now.”

Excelleaf, 305 E. Locust St., has a grand opening planned for 9 a.m. Dec. 1. The event will feature food trucks, a live DJ, specials and discounts.

“We’re excited to be here, to be the first dispensary in DeKalb and for this to be our first store,” said Nakia McAdoo, a founding partner for Canndid Spirit Too LLC, the company that operates Excelleaf. “It means a lot to us. That’s always going to hold a special place for us to be our first store where this all started in DeKalb.”

Once its space is fully built out, Excelleaf intends to host workshops and vendors on-site, in addition to being active in the community offering instruction and education on how to use marijuana products.

Excelleaf is occupying a building in the city’s downtown that once was used for a credit union.

The building has undergone a number of changes to bring the facility in line with the Americans With Disabilities Act and security requirements imposed by both the state and the city of DeKalb.

DeKalb resident Steve Guadagnoli, 79, said he wasn’t concerned about the dispensary and its plans to open.

“I wasn’t worried,” Guadagnoli said. “I just figured, ‘Well, they’ve got to follow city rules, code enforcement. [They’ve] got to do certain things. It takes a while.”

Guadagnoli said he was glad to speak with the dispensary’s staff about his selection before making a purchase.

“They’ve got all kind of goofy different kinds,” he said. “Back then, you only had one kind. But now, it’s all kinds of different stuff. I don’t know what I need.”

According to its website, Excelleaf offers several marijuana products for patrons to choose from, including edibles, topicals, vapes, pre-rolls and concentrates.

Although Excelleaf is not a medicinal dispensary, the store will offer eligible patrons the medicinal discount rate on products, McAdoo said.

DeKalb resident Rea Perkins was seated to talk to one of the dispensary’s staff members about its offerings. She said she’s glad she was able to do so before making a purchase.

“I don’t usually come out during the winter,” Perkins said. “It’s really cold today. It’s hard to get me out of the house.”

Perkins said she found out about the dispensary’s soft opening Friday morning.

She said she was so excited that she jumped up, put on her clothes and was out of her door before 9 a.m.

“I enjoy [marijuana]. I have been waiting for [a dispensary],” Perkins said. “I moved to DeKalb four years ago. Before I purchased my home, I checked to see if they were in line for the legalization and if they were planning. … So I moved here. I live right down the street. I have been stalking this place every day.”

Beatrice said she perused the company’s website to survey what Excelleaf has to offer, and she liked what she saw.

“I looked for my usual brands, and they have those,” Beatrice said.

McAdoo said that working with the city has been easy.

“They were very accessible, which was surprising,” McAdoo said. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder to meet Mayor [Cohen] Barnes [and City Manager] Bill Nicklas. They were very interested in, very accessible early on. We sat down. We talked about it. We explained to them we’re not multistate operators. We don’t own six, seven, eight stores. They like that about us because they’re a town of small businesses.”

McAdoo said the company behind Excelleaf envisions operating multiple marijuana dispensaries in the future.

“Once you get the bud, you can’t stop,” she said.

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