In his youth, Chuck Brewer was arrested for marijuana possession. Although cannabis use was still incredibly taboo at the time (early 2000s), he always knew there would be a shift in public perception about its usage. He just didn’t know when. His brother, Matt had an idea of when that change would come, though.
“It’s funny, I first got involved in the business side back in 2014, and I remember at the time having a conversation with my mom about getting into cannabis, and it was very different than what it would be now,” Matt told ESSENCE. A Chicago-based litigation attorney, he became interested in the industry after seeing medical marijuana become legal in Illinois that year.
“Although the general public’s attitude was still very largely negative at the time, I knew what a revolution was coming and I wanted to a part of it.” He said that his mother Diane was incredibly supportive of his aspirations but posed a very important question: “are you ready for the risks?”
Not only was he ready, Matt readied his family to take the plunge with him, and made history along the way.
In February 2023, the family opened the first minority-independently-owned cannabis shop—The Grasshopper Club—a feat since most of the others are supported by marijuana investors or a multi-state operator. The venture was funded almost entirely by Matt and his family.
The Brewers received a social equity license from the state to open the dispensary in 2019, which was spearheaded by a state program aimed at dismantling barriers to entry for aspiring BIPOC who want to get a piece of the multi-million-dollar pie. The decision to self-fund was a no-brainer for Matt, who oversees the shop’s business practices.
“We wanted to have some ownership and true autonomy,” Matt told ESSENCE. “And there’s nothing wrong with partnering with MSOs, and a lot of other groups have found themselves in a situation where it was their best option. But it was important to us to be in a position where we could actually decide what kind of experience we wanted to provide, how we show up in the community, and even how we pick products that we’re carrying on our shelves. And you lose that type of freedom when someone is invested in the business funding.”
Diane Brewer, who runs the business’s accounting, said her involvement is a new adventure for her. She came out of retirement after working for decades as an accountant to support her sons.
“Who knew I would be doing this at this point in my life,” Diane told ESSENCE, sharing that she’d been spending most of her time volunteering before her sons approached her to be a part of the business’s operations. “I’m really enjoying the way people interact with the product and seeing where the industry is going to go.”