NILES — It was a star-studded affair at Primitiv last Saturday.
Customers had the opportunity not only to see Darren McCarty (ex-Detroit Red Wings and Stanley Cup champion) but also to meet the dispensary’s owners, who are well-known.
Former Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson, NFL Hall of Famer, and Rob Sims, former Lion, were present to check in on Primitiv Group and host McCarty.
“We’ve been coming to Niles and building our concept here,” Sims said. “It’s been great to finally get the doors open and see people come through here and now the weather’s getting better, so it’s a great feeling.”
McCarty, a four time Stanley Cup champion with Red Wings, enjoyed his time at Niles and was impressed by what Johnson and Sims are doing in Niles.
“I think it’s awesome,”McCarty said. “I’m a big proponent [of cannabis]. Everybody knows how I feel about cannabis and stuff like that, but it’s the people of Michigan that I love. … Now that I’m retired, now that I’m in the Michigan cannabis game, I plan on being in places like Niles. Obviously being here with Rob and with Calvin there’s a connection as we try to grow as former athletes, our own messaging and education as far as this plant goes. I think that there’s a lot of us in the same situation.
“I’ve been to some of the wonderful places in Michigan and now I can mark Niles off my book. But this won’t be the only time I’ll be here, I guarantee it.”
Johnson enjoyed meeting customers and Primitiv staff, which received high marks from the Lions star.
“I’m most appreciative of the team and the effect they’re having on customers, especially the ones that come back that I’ve had the chance to meet,”Johnson stated. “They speak highly about the prices but they probably come back for the team, the relationships and conversations that they have and the learning experience that happens in this place for them. It’s exciting to get those repeat customers and then just meet new people.”
Johnson and Sims were once teammates on the field. However, they became friends off the field in real estate. The duo, who were both athletes with firsthand knowledge of the medicinal benefits cannabis had, decided to enter the cannabis market to help customers suffering from chronic pain. They purchased 1286 S. 11th St., the site of the former Billiard Garden, in 2020 and in February 2022 opened Primitiv, the company’s first dispensary offering a full range of recreational and medicinal cannabis products.
“I think me and Calvin are a lot alike, especially when I first got to Detroit,” Sims said. “Both of us were dealing with pain and playing. I was coming off of pectoral surgery and opioids and stuff like that were just something I wasn’t about. There’s this underlying cannabis culture in the NFL and I always wanted to do business with Calvin because he’s so humble and just a great guy. This opportunity came about and we jumped in feet-first. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to build here with this shop.”
“We just felt like that was a great opportunity for us to secure a property that we can get a nice lease on. That’s great business for us,”Johnson stated. “At the same time, we had a passion for cannabis so we understood that there are healing powers with the plant.”
Johnson and Sims have been on a journey to discover the science behind cannabis. Primitiv has partnered up with Harvard University’s International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute to expand research and disseminate knowledge about the health benefits of cannabis for a wide range medical conditions including chronic pain, CTE chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and cancer treatments.
“Obviously through the research aspect of it, we’re here serving our community and at the same time making the medicines through our cultivation,”Johnson stated. “That’s just a great experience to be able to serve people what they need in a natural, holistic way that is an alternative to what’s out there right now.”
McCarty is a staunch supporter for cannabis and can often been seen or heard in media talking about the health benefits of cannabis. McCarty, a recovering alcoholic, credits cannabis for helping him overcome his addiction. He said that he will be seven years sober by November.
“Cannabis saved my life,”He said. “I used to be 280 pounds and my blood pressure was 265 over 165. I didn’t stroke out or have a heart attack in the hospitals because of the cannabis in my system. After being given [Rick Simpson Oil], I was in an intensive life or death detox and after seven days I was able to get the physical addiction of alcohol out, and I was grateful.”
McCarty hopes that his testimony will reach people who are suffering from addiction or other health conditions.
“The worst thing as an addict is to feel helpless, like you don’t have an option,”He said. “What I’m here to tell you and to show people is that listen, I was there. I didn’t feel it, but that’s not the way it is. Through the loving support of the people of the great state of Michigan, I’m alive, and I’m here to spread my message, my truth, my word, and, and join the people who have believed this long before I have and you know, to celebrate the plant.
“To be here in Niles is part of the journey that it’s brought about being with Calvin, Rob and their people because this is how we do it. It’s a people issue. It’s important that I stand up for anybody that stands up for the things that I believe in.”
For Johnson and Sims, Niles’ small-town feel coupled with its proximity to Chicago and Northern Indiana made it an attractive place to set up shop.
“Being on the border is nice because we can touch more people, because that’s really what it is about with us,” Sims said. “We want to be able to come out here and bring people like Darren McCarty out here and bring a little different feel out here. … I just like the town; we’ve got the fast food road [in South 11th Street] and being a big boy I’m enjoying this. But other than that, coming from a small town in [Macedonia, Ohio], this kind of reminded me of that a little bit.”
“From a business perspective, Niles is a great area,”Johnson stated. “You have Illinois, the southwest corner of Michigan and you have Indiana. It’s almost like a tri-state area. Here at Primitiv, our mission is to spread out to a greater population and this location allows us to do that. That’s a big factor in what you actually get in the industry but to be here with people is really where the joy comes from. We’re just spreading kindness.”
Sims is excited about the future. 2022 was an exciting year for Primitiv. Primitiv Performance, a line that offers health and nutrition-related products, will soon be available. The company hopes to open additional dispensaries in Michigan over the next few years.
“It’s like anything you would see in GNC but with THC or CBD,” Sims said. “For the weekend warrior, for the athlete and for the person just trying to get some relief, we will have those products available soon.”
Sims looks forward to the company’s future, a future made possible thanks to passionate Niles customers and staff.
“I think what we’ve built here is just a great foundation,”He said. “I think we have so much more to tackle. We still have our research initiatives at Harvard and that’s looking promising. The sky really is the limit; I think we’ve built a great team here. As long as we can keep everybody together and keep our customers happy, we’ll be able to do some really exciting things.”