Dan and Elizabeth Pittman say their Pennsylvania-sourced products can offer relief from a variety of ailments. They hope their storefront can be a stepping-stone to a recreational cannabis business in town.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 26, 2022
Last year, the Collingswood municipal government established new rules to support the future growth and development of cannabis-based businesses in the borough, even though the state of New Jersey hasn’t yet established the framework for recreational sales of marijuana.
Now, at the top of 2022, the borough has welcomed its first CBD (cannabidiol, a compound cultivated from the cannabis plant) retail shop, Chesco Hemp Company.
Established by the wife-and-husband team of Elizabeth and Dan Pittman, a pair of U.S. Army veterans who are also longtime Collingswood residents, the business traces its unlikely roots to ice cream, of all things.
Dan Pittman operates four Mr. Softee storefronts and six trucks in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. After a friend invited him to try his hand at making a CBD-based ice cream, he spent a month in development before landing on a product he thought was good enough to send for lab verification.
When the results came back, “they said not only was it the cleanest Delta-8 they’d seen, but the cleanest food-grade product they’ve ever seen,” Pittman said.
From there, it was a shorter leap to scale up into a retail business in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, with Elizabeth Pittman at the helm. They called the storefront Chesco Hemp Company, named for Chester and Lancaster Counties, where the Amish farmsteads from which their products originate are located.
“Our farmers are James and Isaiah, and his brother Joshua,” Dan Pittman said. “They drop off bags of vacuum-sealed CBD flower on a horse and buggy. We send it to labs that we’re partnered with, and they extract the chemicals.
“This is local supporting local in the tristate area,” he said.
After building up their business in Downingtown, the Pittmans sought to open up a second location in Dan’s hometown of Collingswood. When the storefront at 554 Haddon Avenue became available—prior tenants Secret Origins Comics & More relocated within the borough amid a redevelopment proposal—the couple seized on the opportunity.
“We knew the number-one thing we had to do is prove our brand,” Dan Pittman said.
“The town and the people have to know that you’re there to do the right thing.
“We have experience in the field, we only use local products, and our product can be trusted,” he said.
Cleanly sourcing the hemp from which Chesco products are derived is critical to the business, Elizabeth Pittman said.
The couple strives for transparency about the contents of its wares, down to QR codes that illustrate the process of their cultivation, and laboratory reports that detail their specific chemical makeup.
“We go out and personally select the batch, they take it to our lab, and process it for us specifically,” Elizabeth Pittman said. “You can pinpoint exactly, almost down to the row that the plant was in in the field, where it came from.”
‘The biggest approach is that you listen to your customer’
The Pittmans describe Chesco as a CBD “wellness shop.” Sales are restricted to customers 21 and older, and the store does not sell marijuana, nor paraphernalia for the consumption of cannabis (e.g., papers, pipes, lighters).
It has, however, seen overflow traffic from medical marijuana consumers seeking edible products after their local dispensary has sold out, Dan Pittman said.
“The big thing we’re here to do is inform customers and let them try products for themselves,” Dan Pittman said. “We’re not here to sell you. We’re here to give you information and let you find what helps you out.”
Although Chesco retails 25 different products, from vaporizer cartridges and wax to tinctures and pet treats, five are its biggest sellers.
“Snoozy Chews” are gummies comprising a combination of melatonin and CBD to help induce sleep (“CBD takes away the anxiety that you won’t fall asleep, and melatonin puts you to sleep,” Dan Pittman said). People seeking a euphoric anti-anxiety experience often prefer its Delta-8-9-10 combo gummies.
Its roll-ons contain camphor as well as CBD, and are used for relief of deep muscle pain; its body butters are derived from Amish family hand and foot lotion recipes.
Bear’s Bites—named for the Pittmans’ dog, Bear—and Charlie’s Chews are treats suitable for pet owners whose animals struggle with sensitivity to their environments or nervous behaviors.
“The biggest approach is that you listen to your customer,” Dan Pittman said; “not only what they’re looking for, but what they’ve tried in the past.
“Just because something works for me has no bearing on what’s going to work for you,” he said. “Most of the people who come in here are people who’ve tried medication, and they’re sick of the side-effects.”
“Our main objective is to be clear-cut and open,” Elizabeth Pittman said. “There’s definitely some bridges to cross with educating people.”
More than anything, the Pittmans want to establish a solid footing in the local business community.
Eventually, when the legal process for establishing a recreational cannabis retail business is formulated, they hope to find a pathway to retailing those products as well.
“We plan on keeping Chesco in Collingswood and growing from there,” Elizabeth Pittman said.
“Ideally, we would like to have the option to turn into a recreational shop when that does become available,” she said. “That’s further down the line, but we want to keep it close to home, and keep the money in the town.”
Chesco Hemp Co. is located at 554 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. For more information, visit its website, or call (856) 240-1648.
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