Access to recreational cannabis in Illinois is easier now than ever. With the opening of NuEra's second location on Green Street, Champaign residents have another convenient location to purchase legal cannabis. 

Since 2015, NuEra has provided medical cannabis to Urbana back when they were NuMed. In 2019, NuEra was granted a recreational cannabis license, just in time for the legalization of cannabis on January 1st in 2020. In mid-April, the second location of NuEra opened at the corner of First and Green Street, opposite the street from Maize.

I reached out to the new cannabis dispensary to learn more about the NuEra expansion into Champaign. Behind the store on a sunny afternoon, I spoke with NuEra staff Jonah Rapino and Alex Carretto about what goes into opening a brand new cannabis retail shop and products they recommend.


The exterior of NuEra Champaign is a brick building with orange letters on Green Street. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Smile Politely: I'm excited to meet you guys. Can you introduce yourself and your role at NuEra?

Rapino: Hello, I'm Jonah Rapino, and I'm the Director of Marketing for NuEra.

Carretto: My name is Alex Carretto, and I'm the general manager here at the Champaign location.

Rapino and Carretto of NuEra stand in front of a black metal building. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

SP: The place is pretty new. What goes into opening a new store?

Rapino: So many things. The first major hurdle is to set the place up in a way that you can pass inspection through the Cannabis Regulatory Board. You have to have all the POS systems set up correctly, all the signage, the security cameras, the vault, all that has to be set up in the proper way. There's a lot of regulations and guidelines we have to follow, and then we had an inspection. They came in and checked everything off the list, and we passed that inspection. We also have a city inspection process as well.

SP: For the space, did you have to make a lot of changes? Was it set up for a dispensary or did you have to do some renovations?

Rapino: We inherited a raw space. Kam's built this amazing complex for themselves and other retail. This space was empty and available for rent. One of the management folks found out about it and thought it would be an excellent location for a sister location to the Urbana shop. So we have the east side covered and now, we've got the west side covered. All those people coming in from the suburbs can bring their business down this way, then have an opportunity to shop NuEra in Champaign as well.

It was cement and empty space, and we had to make it all happen. It's really beautiful inside. I can't wait for people to come see it.

Carretto: We were able to make it our own.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

SP: That's awesome. What is a typical day like?

Carretto: It's everything: from taking care of the customers — here, we're going to have all rec customers — to general operations. We want to make sure we're in compliance with the State, everything from taking inventory, different deliveries, and yeah, just busy days.

Rapino: Everyone entering must be 21 and up.

Carretto: Yes, ID checking will be a big focus at this location.

SP: Can you describe all the different roles that people have at NuEra?

Carretto: Sure, definitely. You have to check IDs at the front door. Someone takes orders, making a sale at the counter, and of course, the back of house, too. That's everything from taking deliveries, managing deliveries, and preparing orders for people who will be coming in. Just a lot goes into it.

SP: I know you have a location in Urbana and that's been open for awhile.

Rapino: We started in 2014. It was only medical for many years.

SP: This location will be different, right, because there will be no medical. 

Rapino: So anyone, 21 and up can come in. It's not licensed for the medical program, so the only places in Illinois you can participate in the medical program are already existing dispensaries. Not opening up any new medical dispensaries. I think it would be great if we could have the medical program at more dispensaries, but that's just what the regulations are.

Carretto: Yeah, absolutely. 

Rapino: We definitely welcome any medical customers coming in, but they won't be able to use their medical ID and go through that whole thing.

SP: Does that mean the discounts for medical patients won't apply at this location?

Rapino: It's a tax, not really a discount. It's just those in the medical program pay way less tax. It's like 24 to 40% tax for the adult use program. We imagine most of our medical customers will stay with us over in Urbana. 

Inside NuEra Champaign, the walls are white with a small table with a plant and a skinny ATM on the far wall. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

SP: So what products do you carry? What can people find at this location?

Carretto: It will be a lot of similar products like we have over in Urbana. We have a lot of cultivators coming in: Cresco, PTS, Grassroots is another big one. Everything from your edibles to vape pens, those will probably a big hit at this location. Of course, we'll always have flower and everything else as well.

SP: For some readers who have not visited a dispensary before, what would be a good edible to recommend?

Carretto: For a starter, for sure, we've got some things. I'd recommend the Ozone gummies. They are assorted colors and coated with sugar, like a sour patch kid. We have sativa and indica options.

SP: What about drinks? I know there's tonics and seltzers. What would you recommend?

Carretto: I'm a big tonic guy, especially if it's mixed with club soda or anything like that.

SP: Do you have a flower recommendation you can share with our readers?

Rapino: Absolutely. NuEra has a really amazing line of flower. LSD is a very good one. Basically, we're the exclusive cultivator of this strain called LSD. It is indica, but it has a really interesting cerebral effect as well, but it's great for relaxing. It's good for body pains, too.

We have a sativa called Mr. Clean which is a get-up-and-go, take-care-of-stuff product. A little uplift. If you're feeling a little down or a little, you know, low energy and need a good pick me up, that's a really good strain for that.

Carretto: And if people are just looking to get into flower instead of edibles, we have plenty of pre-rolls from NuEra. Blue Dream is a nice middle of the road something, so if someone is looking to start with flower, I would definitely recommend the Blue Dream pre-rolls.

SP: Good to know. I want to circle back to the LSD. For clarity, I want to verify that it does not contain LSD or hallucinogenic properties, right?

Rapino: Correct. The geneticists who hybridize the seeds, they're the ones who come up with these names. So it's not our branded name. Some of the names are a little bit funny. It's just a nod back to the geneticist.

SP: What's it like being open in Campustown?

Carretto: It's always busy. It's great. A lot of times you have to look to draw people in, but it's fantastic that so many people come by the store everyday. We are just looking to accommodate those customers.

Rapino: Everyone is excited. We anticipate a lot of foot traffic. People in Urbana — it's strange — they don't go to Champaign, and people in Champaign don't always go to Urbana, so there's a whole community of people who will have a nice, convenient, fun retail cannabis shopping experience.

SP: Where can people park or do you anticipate mostly pedestrian traffic?

Rapino: There is some parking. There is a lot of parking by the Boneyard. There is some metered parking around here. There's some — not a lot — behind the store. I think the foot traffic will be big, too.

SP: What can buyers expect when they visit?

Carretto: Great customer service. If they have any questions, feel free to shoot them off at the register. That's why we're there. Cash is accepted, and there is an ATM on site. 

Rapino: We will also have debit terminals at every point of sale, convenience factor. The cannabis industry retail is starting to become like every other industry around like Barnes and Noble. We can't take credit cards, though, just debit only.

SP: How should people order their cannabis from NuEra?

Carretto: We prefer online orders just because it does just make things easier for the consumer and for us. 

Rapino: It's an online pre-order which is finalized in the store.

Carretto: Yep, correct.

SP: There isn't any curbside pick up, right? Customers just come in to get their order?

Carretto: Yes. Curbside would only be for medical, and since we're just recreational, we only have in store pick up.

A sideview of the kiosk in the NuEra Champaign location which shows cannabis products available for sale. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Rapino: We also have an in store kiosk for people who want to just walk in. They can just come in and interact with the kiosk and then finalize their transaction at the terminal. Because we're still within pandemic times, we won't be jamming people in the building. We have limits to the number of people that can be inside. So it definitely helps a lot when people pre-order and make their reservation ahead of time, so they can get their slot, know that they'll get in, have that great customer service experience, and then be on their way. 

SP: Do you have any current specials?

Carretto: The specials we are running at the moment are $15 off Blue Dream and Pillow Factory eighths along with $5 off Ozone gummies for Pride Month.

SP: Why should people buy their cannabis at NuEra Champaign?

Carretto: We're looking to give that great customer service, the easiest experience as possible, and just provide customers with great products.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Rapino: So there is a lot of demand and not a lot of places to go. It's great that Illinois made it possible for existing dispensaries to open up second locations so that we can offer these products and services to the large numbers of people who want to come buy cannabis. So, there's going to be so many more cannabis retail stores very soon which is really great. Obviously people want it, and they should have as many opportunities as they can to have it. Look at how many McDonald's or Starbucks there are. If you look at Colorado, there are more cannabis dispensaries in Colorado than there are Starbucks.

SP: Wow, I did not know that.

Rapino: This is something that people want, and so it's great that we can provide that in a place that is easy and convenient. 

Carretto: We hope to see everyone soon, especially more locals coming into the store for the summer.

NuEra Champaign
102 Green St
Champaign
Su noon to 7 p.m.
M+T noon to 10 p.m.
W-Sa 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.