Budding opportunity

Laid off city hotel workers have chance to earn green through weed

Holistic Industries
Through a partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, many people working in the hotel industry who were laid off due to COVID-19 have an opportunity to find a fresh start working in cannabis across four dispensaries hiring candidates now throughout the Philadelphia area. | Image courtesy: Holistic Industries

There’s not much Ed Grose did beyond send over a blanket email with an opportunity to people he knew were in need of one. 

Grose, the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, has seen the industry and the professionals who work within it, crippled by COVID-19, as stay-at-home orders have led to a lack of visitors, a lack of tourism, and in turn, a lack of jobs as thousands have been laid off in Philadelphia in the wake of the pandemic. 

The email was an opportunity that came by way of a partnership between the GPHA and an East Coast-based chain of cannabis dispensaries, Holistic Industries, for interested customer service experts to apply for jobs across four of Holistic’s Liberty Cannabis Dispensaries in Philadelphia, Norristown, Bensalem and Aliquippa locations. 

According to Holistic’s chief human resources officer, Jim Langin, there stand to be 12-15 people who will work as Wellness Guides throughout the facilities, earning up to $15 an hour working with licensed medical marijuana cardholders on everything from the right strand of flower to the best brand of gummies to serve as the cure for what ails. 

What it also means is that there are about 12-15 former employees of Philadelphia’s hospitality industry who will also owe Ed Grose a debt of gratitude thanks to a fresh start.  

“I just sent out a blanket general email to our members and let them respond directly,” Grose told PW. “So I wasn’t completely aware of who responded and who did not. “The hospitality industry in our region has been terribly impacted by the current pandemic, with thousands of layoffs and multiple hotel closures in just a couple of weeks. Our employees are our greatest resource, so we are very grateful to Holistic Industries, a business that has been deemed essential during this time, for giving our team members the opportunity for jobs that leverage their skills and experience while our industry recovers.”

Business is booming right now for the cannabis industry, which has seen a surge in just about every key metric. Sales nationwide are as high as 25% for some companies, according to a CNBC report. As for Holistic Industries, while sales percentages are unknown, the company is currently in the hiring process for 15 different positions across all of their facilities along the East Coast, according to Indeed.com – a key indicator that business is most certainly good.

“There’s an unprecedented level of stress and an unprecedented level of anxiety in our country right now. It’s that level of stress that’s created an unprecedented need for this product that provides real relief.” 

– Jim Langin, chief human resources officer, Holistic Industries

Additionally, with nerves and anxiety at an all-time high over cannabis, the medical marijuana industry has seen a whopping 142% increase in new patients seeking services. 

Fortunately, Holistic and its chain of Liberty Dispensaries are ready to assist. 

“There’s an unprecedented level of stress and an unprecedented level of anxiety in our country right now,” said Langin. “I saw a post the other day that with Wyoming being really declared a state of emergency, [this is] the first time in our country’s history that all 50 states have simultaneously been named under a state of emergency. It’s that level of stress that’s created an unprecedented need for this product that provides real relief.” 

The wellness associates Holistic plans to acquire at these dispensaries act as the first line of care management for patients. Training is supposed to help them identify the needs of each patient and recommend the strain that works best. It’s here, both Grose and Langin say the customer service part of the job is perhaps the most important.

Weed purchase
Since the stay-at-home order, new patients with a medical marijuana license have seen a 142% increase. Good for business, especially ones like Liberty Dispensary which offers curbside delivery on all orders. | Image courtesy: Holistic Industries

Despite Holistic being a decent job looking to hire qualified candidates at the moment, a number of former employees have expressed discontent. The company received low grades on employment sites like Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com, all from former employees who cited everything from incompetency to a supreme lack of job security. In fact, employees from both the Bensalem and Norristown stores both noted on Indeed.com that the lack of job security was its greatest concern, one even alluding that ageism might have been at play. 

Speculation from former employees aside, Holistic is banging the charge to recruit a few new employees who in this time of need can certainly benefit from having a fresh start and a steady paycheck. According to Langin, hospitality is the name of the game as a Wellness Associate, and ultimately, some people have it and some just don’t. 

“I can teach someone how to cook. I can teach someone how to run the cash register. But I can’t teach them how to want to engage with strangers all day, every day, and how to make sure that the needs of others are ahead of their own,” said Langin. “Someone who arrives to work in a great mood and wants to help spread that mood to the co-workers and employees is who we’re looking for. They are problem solvers. They’re creative in the way they find solutions, and they’re also very good listeners.”

Grose agreed with Langin’s sentiment and added:

“Not everyone is a hospitality employee,” said Grose. “There’s no shame in not being a hospitality employee. But you either are or you aren’t. No matter what kind of day you’re having, you still come to work every day with a smile. What’s happening in your own life doesn’t have an impact on how you do your job and how you greet people. I think that would go for anyone, whether or not you’re introverted or extroverted. It’s all about whether or not you have a hospitality mindset.”

There are three new hotels set to open up this year [in the city], now is not the time to lose good people. We are anticipating a shortage of good team members, but this was about taking care of our people.”

Ed Grose, executive director Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association

Grose knows that with this partnership, Philadelphia’s hotel industry has lost thousands of dedicated professionals, many who might find the grass truly is greener in cannabis and choose to leave the hotel life behind indefinitely. However, he says this partnership was finding people resources to support themselves in a time when resources are lacking. 

“For us [at GPHA], it was more about taking care of our people,” said Grose. “We don’t want to see good people leave, especially at a time when you have new hotel inventory coming to Philadelphia. There are three new hotels set to open up this year [in the city], now is not the time to lose good people. We are anticipating a shortage of good team members, but this was about taking care of our people.”

He paused and added: 

“When the COVID-19 crisis first hit, I spent the majority of my time just listening to the general managers [across area hotels],” Grose continued. “Not one of them was concerned about their hotel owners. Not one of them was concerned about their bonus. But each and every one of them was concerned about the people that they were letting go and the people that, through no fault of their own, were losing their job and their ability to make a life. This [partnership] for us was more about taking care of them and worrying about our labor shortage later.”

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    Kerith Gabriel is the editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. Journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.