By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle
EGREMONT — Heidi and Ari Zorn realize they have a family motto: “Do not tell me I can’t.”
The couple keeps making things happen despite fears, despite others’ doubts, despite pandemic-level uncertainty. Three is their magic number.
“We have three businesses, three kids, three dogs,” said Heidi Zorn recently, sitting near a sun-dappled Karner Brook behind the couple’s third venture: Devine Berkshires, a recreational cannabis and CBD shop set to open on Main Street in South Egremont later this year.
The cannabis retail store has its local permissions and is still awaiting its final license from the state. In the meantime, the couple is renovating the space and has started an equity crowdfunding drive for the CBD business, New Green LLC, to lower their cannabis licensing start-up costs, and to begin selling CBD products while they wait.
“We’re creating an opportunity for the community,” Ari Zorn said. “It’s not just about us.”
And when the cannabis license finally does arrive, it will be the first in the Berkshires given to a Black entrepreneur.
It will also flow with the Egremont couple’s devotion to a holistic life. Heidi Zorn is a chiropractor, and Ari Zorn is a personal trainer. They’ve lived in the Berkshires since the early 1990s.
“This ties into everything we do,” he said. “It’s about wellness and health.”
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The Berkshires also is where they’ve raised three children, the youngest 13, and where they are deeply involved in the community. Ari Zorn also is a local environmental activist, NAACP leader and member of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts. He gave a stirring speech at the Black Lives Matter rally in Great Barrington in June — something he didn’t know would have such an impact. He was nervous going in.
But with the new business, with life, the couple say they’ve grown new muscles.
“I keep saying yes to things,” Ari Zorn said. “I’ve got to say yes to every challenge.”
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It ranges from his saying yes to speaking at the rally, to Heidi Zorn brushing off naysayers who didn’t think she could pull off the new venture without big capital and consultants. She sat down and studied the regulations, and wrote her own policies with the help of her sister, Christina Schenk-Hargrove, an attorney.
“I don’t ever take the easy road,” she said. “There’s no other business where you have to write everything from the ground up. It’s sort of like having a baby and afterwards, you’re like, `That’s fun.’”
Moving through two years of town permitting was a long labor, but satisfying, they said. And good for their marriage.
“We don’t take no for an answer, and we don’t give up,” Ari Zorn said.
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They want to be role models for a scrappy entry into the industry known for $2 million to $3 million in start-up costs.
“We’re doing it all ourselves and saving a lot of money,” Heidi Zorn said.
So they say they plan to support opportunities for your people, and will give to Berkshire Community College’s cannabis certificate program. The couple is passionate about making sure that those without money, and people of color, get a shot at a booming industry that emerged after these groups historically suffered under punishing drug laws.
“It’s about so many people that don’t have,” Ari Zorn said, Black or white, he added.
The couple is radiating excitement about this new birth, and about a new pandemic-slowness that has brought the family closer. Ari Zorn says he is grateful.
“I feel like I have been given something in my life and that I have to give back,” he said.
Heather Bellow can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.
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