“We do have some experience on the cannabis side and some on the nudity side.”
You really have to hand it to the owners of Club Castaway in Franklin County. The place may be a dumpy strip joint off I-91 where college bros and truckers converge on their way in and out of the state, but it has the kind of buzz and legacy that make for a compelling drama series, complete with a contemporary pivot toward cannabis.
The brand came into notoriety under former longtime controversial proprietor Demetrios “Jimmy the Greek” Konstantopoulos, but then earned much friendlier headlines in 2019 after introducing queer-friendly policies. Inspection troubles and presumably the pandemic foiled those plans, but earlier this year the new owners shared their idea to save the struggling establishment by opening the first topless dispensary in the entire country.
Needless to say, outlets from Forbes to international newspapers jumped on the small town news, all while the proposal triggered the expected response from some locals who don’t like strip clubs no matter what they are serving. The editors of the Springfield Republican even issued a response that actually leaned toward knowledgeable on the weed front but nonetheless ignores the lure of sex and sounds like a free-range parent attempting to convince their kid that chocolate tastes bad:
Weed stores stand out, and succeed, based on their selection of strains and products, along with the ability of staff to field questions, advise buyers and compete in an increasingly price-conscious market.
Savvy cannabis retailers have created spa-like spaces that say “wellness.” The plan in Whately? It values a shopper’s amusement over employee dignity. That’s a tone-deaf vibe in this emerging industry. The future Club Castaway envisions is, in the light of day, a pounding hangover.
Somewhere in there is the tagline for a blockbuster film in the making. And there are several cinematic scenes to draw from, like the moment when the owners presented their plan to the Whatley Select Board in February. As the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported:
“We do have some experience on the cannabis side and some on the nudity side,” Spagnola said, stating they could bring “cannabis tourism” to town. “We want to replace this night club scene and alcohol with something that is harmless in comparison.”
Select Board member Julianna Waggoner, agreeing that removing alcohol and dancing from the business could make it a quieter environment, inquired about who would be topless in the store.
“It could certainly be a little mellower,” Waggoner said. “I do have to ask, who is going to be topless?”
Her question was unanswered, but Spagnola said they’ve never had trouble finding employees to work with them and they “have a good track record” with the town.
“It may surprise you, we’ve never had a shortage of employees who wanted to work at Castaways,” Spagnola said, adding he thinks some former employees might be on board to rejoin them. “We’re confident we could create a protocol for a safe working environment.”
Moments like those helped Club Castaway go viral, and now we’re sure to get another round of coverage. The Gazette recently reported that decisions are coming soon that will steer the club’s future, and the Boston Business Journal put the story back on blast over the weekend (“Cannabis or bust: Strip club owners aren’t giving up on their topless pot spot”). As these things go, you can expect to see more pieces soon despite this not really being an actual thing yet. From the former:
“The board essentially wants to pick up right where it left off,” [the town administrator] said. He noted that the town has received “no further notification” about the club’s dispensary plans and even if it had, state Cannabis Control Commission regulations will slow that process down. “Regulations for social consumption are still in the works. … I think it will be a little while.”