Prior to becoming the president and chief operations officer of Zoned Properties, a cannabis real estate development firm, Berekk Blackwell spent years in the restaurant industry helping private equity investors find smaller restaurants with potential for growth and helping larger chains develop their international markets.
“I was with brands like Cold Stone Creamery; I actually lived in Tokyo for a couple years while working for the master franchisee for Krispy Kreme,” Blackwell says. “Then COVID hit in March 2020.”
And while the pandemic decimated the restaurant industry, cannabis businesses were deemed essential, and the industry was surging. At the time, Blackwell was managing a small breakfast chain in Arizona when he met Zoned Properties CEO Bryan McLaren.
“Bryan and I hit it off, and as we were talking, I saw the opportunity to do things the right way and develop an industry using all the tools I had acquired over the years,” Blackwell says. “I haven’t really looked back, to be honest.”
Blackwell now oversees the advisory and brokerage divisions of Zoned Properties, carefully watching each cannabis market for potential real estate developments while also managing the day-to-day operations to ensure the company stays on a steady trajectory toward its next milestone. He says the cannabis industry’s breakneck pace reminds him of his prior life in the restaurant industry.
“Every day in the cannabis industry is something new,” he says. “Sure, there are quirks, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”