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Middletown's Sugar Leaf CBD shop supports female entrepreneurs

MIDDLETOWN — Kristin Souza had thought about opening a store focused on CBD products for a while, but it wasn’t until she was laid off twice from her insurance job during the pandemic that she decided to take the plunge.

At Sugar Leaf, 109 Court St., customers can purchase CBD products, learn about cannabis, purchase glass pipes and other gift shop items, such as soap and candles.

Every product is related to cannabis and many are from women-owned or operated businesses and vendors.

 

Sugar Leaf is a family venture — Souza’s husband, a glass blower, creates products for a display case. Her father, who died in 2011, was a major inspiration for opening the venture.

Her emphasis on women was intentional, Souza said, since she believes women and mothers are especially uncomfortable talking about cannabis due to the stigma.

Souza believes people are now more open to talking about the topic since Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis in July.

“It’s not a smoke shop,” Souza said. “Sometimes, there’s an aesthetic when you go to a smoke shop. You’re not going to find tie-dye or Cheech & Chong posters. It’s a feminine aesthetic.”

Sugar Leaf’s walls are painted in earth tones and products are laid on wooden tables made by Souza’s friend.

While working on creating the business, her father was foremost on her mind. “He had Stage 4 lung cancer,” Souza said. “It was terminal, and it was 2011, there was no CBD. I had him in my head as I was thinking.”

Once she began working on the business, everything happened fast. She knew she wanted to be in downtown Middletown, and by May, she signed a lease.

Something that did not come together quickly was her inventory and fixtures for her store. Her supplies came in, but she’s since learned from other business owners than she needs to order ahead. Now, Souza said, she’s already thinking about holiday orders.

Some of the fixtures she ordered have been delayed, Souza said. That’s when she went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Cromwell, a retail store that accepts donations of new and gently used items that are sold at a reduced cost. It was a blessing, Souza said, which enabled her to create a unique store instead of using fixtures from big-box retailers.

“The reception has been good, people are wandering in, and word of mouth has picked up,” Souza said. Her top sellers so far are a CBD topical cream, CBD gummies and CBD drops.

Souza is also a justice of the peace and hopes to offer that feature as part of her business. In recent years, people have been incorporating cannabis into their weddings. One example is a “bud bar,” which is similar to a traditional bar, except people receive cannabis and can smoke at the event.

Besides serving as an officiant, Souza can offer consulting services for weddings.

Sugar Leaf is also offering private events, which Souza labeled “Puff, Pass and Pot Some Succulents,” a succulent potting party with a cannabis twist.

Participants receive a 4-inch ceramic planter, three succulents and other items needed to create their own designs. Fresh treats from local eateries will be available.

The event is “BYOC,” or bring your own cannabis, which is modeled after wine and paint parties. Participants must be 21 or over to attend.

The only time people can smoke in the shop is during a private event because of the Clean Indoor Air Act, which regulates where smoking can occur.

“People need to know venues they can smoke at, and cannabis-friendly vendors,” Souza said.

Sugar Leaf is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, visit sugarleafct.com or 860-894-2908.

christine.derosa@hearstmediact.com

Middletown's Sugar Leaf CBD shop supports female entrepreneurs (middletownpress.com)


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