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Medical cannabis dispensary continues renovations of old Billiard Garden

NILES — After months of interference from COVID-19, the path is clear for two former Detroit Lions, to gain some ground in pursuit of a touchdown at their medical marijuana facility.

Calvin Johnson Jr., former wide receiver, and Rob Sims, former guard for the Detroit Lions have made progress at the site of their facility at the former Billiard Garden, 1286 S 11th St.

Primitive, a partnership between Johnson and Sims and Weinberg Family Enterprises, was granted their special land use as a medical marijuana provisioning center at the end of March, as the heaviest of COVID-19 mandates began.

Primitive, the medical cannabis dispensary, will showcase Sims’ and Johnson’s brand by the same name. They have a partnership with Harvard Medical School. Finding a holistic approach to pain management was important to the two former professional football players.

“It’s not only to do quality assurance on our products that we will share in Niles but also get into some actual trials and research,” Sims said. “We plan on being a very innovative company. We believe that we can continue to grow, and our product line will continue to grow with us and those will be shared in Niles.”

The two entrepreneurs have had to bench their progress on the business temporarily as COVID-19 arrived in Michigan.

“It’s been hard dealing with the coronavirus and the shut down,” Sims said. “It happened right before we were about to break ground. Our team here has handled that and navigated through that.”

Since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted some of the heaviest COVID-19 mandates over the last couple of months, Sims said their team has been able to get things moving with the renovations and construction at the future provisioning center.

“We are excited about getting things ready in the coming months,” Sims said “It’s been a long time. We’re doing a bunch. We’ve been able to get past it and are going full steam ahead.”

The old Billiard Garden building will be getting a more modern overhaul, according to Johnson.

“Not so much that it overtakes anything else on the street, but we will be putting a modern touch to what is there,” Johnson said. “The interior is going to match. It’s going to be a very nice, modern, transitional feel. Not too eclectic. We want to be a part of this community more so than just a brand in it.”

The location in Niles will be the first of two medical provisioning locations for the company, with the second coming to Lansing. Johnson and Sims already have a cultivation facility in Webberville, Michigan.

“This is going to be the first place we get to really wave our flag,” Sims said. “We’re really excited about that.”

Sims had never been to Niles before they put down roots for their business.

“I love the small-town feel, but it’s still a busy city,” he said “That’s a bustling street.”

Both Johnson and Sims look forward to not just putting a business into the Niles community, but also become a part of it.

“We have been fortunate with our career to not only focus on the bottom line, but us being able to be entrepreneurs and focus on giving back to the community,” Sims said.

Sims hopes to be able to be involved with local youth football.

The two business owners know the community involvement will take time, as COVID-19 precautions continue to hinder sports at the school level and professional.

“We want to have that [community] impact, and it starts with getting open,” Johnson said. “The coronavirus has slowed that down. Not only the opening up, but we want to be able to be involved in the community.”

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