Weed Stalk Cannabis Store Owner’s Motto: Of Women, For Women

Debbie Madaio says her Hamilton Street cannabis store will “cater to the cannabis-smoking woman.”

To Debbie Madaio, it’s no surprise that the first two cannabis retailers in Franklin are likely to be women.

“Women are in the forefront of the cannabis industry,” said Madaio, who has a conditional retail license for her store, Weed Stalk, at 646 Hamilton Street. She said she expects the license to be converted to the full annual license in about six months.

The other retailer, Shani Madaminova, already has an annual license and is looking to open her store on Easton Avenue sometime in April.

Madaio said she’s not fazed by potential competition.

Madaio’s store, she said, is going to be “by women, for women.”

Madaio is no stranger to the cannabis industry, legal and – as some now refer to the illicit market – legacy. She is the former partner of Ed Forchion, better known as NJ Weedman, and ran a weed-themed Trenton restaurant called The Joint until the partnership fell apart.

“I created that place, I financed that place, I decorated that place, I took that place to the next level,” she said.

After the break with Forchion, Madaio’s attorney told her about an open space in Franklin that once housed an African church.

“He said, you need to get this spot,” Madaio said.

She did take it and has been there, not yet opening, for about a year.

“When I first came here, I cried because it was so overwhelming,” she said.

Madaio has spent the past year slowly retrofitting the space. Gone are the carpets and the multi-colored walls, although she has kept a few holdovers from the church, namely some pews and a very long couch.

Madaio said she has a definite vision for her store.

“I want to cater to the cannabis-smoking woman,” she said.

“It’s going to be a very welcoming environment, non-judgmental,” she said. “A lot of time women involved in the cannabis market tend to get ripped off. It’s a very, very misogynistic market.”

Her store, she said, will be “a place where people can learn.”

“I’m an old hippie chick, and my place will look old hippie,” she said. “I replicate everything that I’ve experienced in my life.”

Madaio said the renovations have just begun.

“Security is one of my big things,” she said. “You’re not going to do a smash-and-grab here. It’s going to be like Ft. Knox, and that’s to protect my employees and to protect the people in the area.”

She plans on building a vestibule at the store’s front, through which customers will have to be buzzed (no pun intended) by an employee to get into the main store.

Madaio plans on hiring armed security, as well as taking other safety precautions, she said.

In addition to whatever cannabis products she’ll be allowed to sell – flower, tinctures, edibles, to name a few – Madaio said she will offer other cannabis-themed items such as clothing, books and various knick-knacks.

“I don’t know what the legal market will be like,” she said. “Whatever I’m able to have, I’m going to have.”

But above all, Madaio said, she wants to normalize the presence of women leaders in the cannabis industry.

“It’s evolved to when you think women and weed, you should think of women who are empowered, women that own businesses, women that are movers and shakers,” she said. “If you want to have a successful business, you need to market to women, women are usually the one who control the purse strings.”

“I have been in this community since I was 16,” she said. “I’m 58. It’s always been toxic masculinity.”

Madaio takes a breather and looks around the store with a smile.

“Did I ever think I would be able to sell legal weed in the State of New Jersey? No,” she said. “I still can’t believe it. I haven’t processed it yet.”

“I don’t think I will until I’m open and I sell my first weed,” she said.

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