Event organizer and Austin native Juan Teague is teaming up with fellow West Sider Rawle Stewart to try to open a cannabis craft grower business at the long-vacant Austin Moo & Oink location, 4848 W. Madison St. 

Craft growers are smaller-scale cultivation facilities that sell their products to dispensaries rather than to customers directly. While multiple entities have tried to open cannabis craft growers and other cannabis businesses on the West Side, most of them haven’t succeeded. 

Austin Weekly News has not been able to get much information on the applicants, and Teague did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. But Teague and Stewart will hold a community meeting about their proposal on March 16 at West Austin Development Center, 4920 W. Madison St. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. 

The Moo & Oink building sat unused since the grocery store chain closed in 2011. In 2016, Thom Alcazar, a businessman with experience in warehousing and supply chain management, expressed interest in using it for Eats Groceries —a warehouse-like store where customers would order food through touch screens and have it delivered to them.  The proposal didn’t ultimately get very far.  In 2020, Purely Meat Co., a  meat wholesaler, got the zoning approvals that would allow it to move into the building from its current location in West Humboldt Park, 4345 W. Division St., but it didn’t move forward. 

Teague is currently working with Batter and Berries, a Lincoln Park-based breakfast café at 2748 N. Lincoln Ave., to open the Bruce restaurant and event space in Austin, at 5924 W. Chicago Ave. But that project has run into delays due to rising costs of construction materials in 2021. There are also allegations that their first construction contractor scammed them and demolished a roof without permission. 

The city has since tentatively agreed to give her around $1.9 million in funds from the Austin Commercial Tax Increment Financing District to help with construction costs. The agreement was sent to the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Finance, which must approve it before the full council votes on it. During an Oct. 11, 2022 meeting of the Chicago Community Development Commission, she said she still intended to complete the projects. 

So far, all attempts to open a craft grower on the West Side have failed. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Urban Synergy, which is owned by Joseph Stanford, of the South Side’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, got a license to open a facility in North Lawndale, at 4500-4512 W. Fillmore St.  But they never got as far as going before the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals – a necessary step in the application process before they can start construction. 

Canna B Growth LLC, which is co-owned by Karen Riley and Lafayette Williams, of the South Loop, and Finis Collier, of East Garfield Park, planned to open a craft grower in West Garfield Park, at 4411 W. Carroll St. Their application got as far as the ZBA, originally going before the board on Jan. 17, 2021. But the applicant requested continuances several times and withdrew their application in December 2021. 

Clade9 Chicago LLC, which was looking to open a craft grower at 5851 W. Dickens Ave., across the Milwaukee District West Metra Line tracks from Austin, not only made it to the ZBA but got the application approved on Oct. 16, 2020. But nothing came of that, either.  According to the Illinois Secretary of State records, the company was involuntarily dissolved effective Aug. 12, 2022.

Other cannabis businesses haven’t done any better. The Department of Agriculture approved applications for two cannabis infusers in West Humboldt Park, at 4429 W. Division St. – Chicago Greenz LLC and Treatmints LLC. The corporate records show that those entities have different groups of owners. 

The only exceptions to this trend are cannabis transportation companies. Piff Patch opened in Austin, at 5250 W. North Ave., and Runway Logistics Services Inc opened on the edge of East Garfield Park, at 700 N. Sacramento Blvd.

Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...