Subway-Inspired Cannabis Dispensary Opens on Vernon Blvd.

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

By Charlie Finnerty |

Tucked away on the corner of Vernon Blvd. and 44th Dr., NYC Bud celebrated its grand opening Friday. Customers flooded through the sliding glass doors into the storefront, modeled after an MTA subway station complete with classic MTA signage, subway cars, MetroCard ticket machine-styled ATMs and even a rat mascot posing for photos.

Owner Jon Paul Pezzo said the theme of the shop was an homage to New York City graffiti culture and a reflection of his time spent riding the subway across the city’s boroughs growing up in Bayside.

“We’re Queens kids, this is our vibe,” Pezzo said. “I was fifteen years old riding the 7 line. My mother thought I was right around the block when I was in downtown Manhattan buying fat caps to go do graffiti on the weekends. We hung out in parks, we drank, we smoked and this is our culture, you know? I feel like kids have lost community with video games and technology. What was once connecting us is disconnecting us now. We wanted to bring the essence of old New York.”

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Pezzo said he wants his business to serve every community in surrounding Queens neighborhoods of LIC, Astoria and beyond, with plans to eventually open locations throughout the city.

“Everyone, everyone, everyone,” Pezzo said. “We’re really excited because we feel we’ve built something very different. We want to open stores in every borough. We’re an NYC brand.”

Pezzo said the lengthy licensing process and the challenges of navigating an emerging legal cannabis industry made the opening process especially drawn out and difficult. Competition with black market smoke shops — which do not follow the specific regulations of the legal industry and have proliferated under the state’s bumpy rollout of legalized cannabis — makes opening legal dispensaries especially difficult and costly, according to Pezzo.

“After a long long nightmare of a journey, we’re finally here,” Pezzo said. “Going through the licensing process, waiting, doing all the paperwork — struggling, really. Doing everything the right way while these illegal businesses are opening left and right. They shut them down and they open right up again. For what they put us through to open a business, to have that as an added thing is not really fair. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Zion Foss is a founding member of Zizzle, a Queens-based cannabis cultivation and lifestyle brand and a featured brand at NYC Bud’s new storefront. Foss grew up in Flushing and founded Zizzle as one of the first legal New York City cannabis brands in the earliest days of legalization.

Foss said he would like to see the state and city support the legal industry by streamlining the licensing process and providing grants or other incentives to promote legal entrepreneurship.

“We need to simplify the process, not so much red tape and regulation,” Foss said. “We’re subject to all this compliance and rigorous testing. It’s overwhelming and capital intensive.”

Jeff North, an LIC native and longtime member of the cannabis horticultural community, said he is excited to see the industry being legalized and businesses taking off.

“I think in general, it’s a great thing to have new business avenues open in New York. We’ve always been a city striving for commerce, so why not take advantage of the commerce of this industry and move it more towards a legal market?”

Jeff North at NYC Bud. Credit: Charlie Finnerty

As an experienced grower and educator in cannabis horticulture, North raised concerns about the growing industry inflating prices artificially for a product he knows is not particularly costly to produce.

“The entire concept that marijuana should cost this much money is absolutely ridiculous,” North said.

Foss said he is excited to see more legal and locally owned storefronts like NYC Bud opening in the city.

“It’s a special grand opening, it’s a special time in cannabis, it’s a special time for all New Yorkers.” Foss said. “We’re providing safe cannabis and I’m proud to be behind that.”

Credit: Charlie Finnerty


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