Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

State leaves Papi’s Secret Stash high … and dry


Eric Sanchez has learned a few things about timing in life.

The owner of Papi’s Secret Stash on Main Street in Peekskill signed up to join the United States Army at age 17 on Sept. 3, 2001, a week before terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and killed 3,000 people.

By Sept. 12 he got his orders to report for training and wound up in Iraq, Britain and duty with Homeland Security at Indian Point, Grand Central Station and other critical sites during his four years of service.

In 2020, Sanchez left his 15-year career in finance in the construction and building industry in New York City to strike out on his own. Once again – timing. As he started to build his Papi’s business, the world shut down in the Covid pandemic.

Eric Sanchez in his store on Main Street. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

But the Papi’s Secret Stash business grew. Sanchez sold his line of branded marijuana smoking accessories and clothing through pop-up stores and street fairs in New York City after getting his veterans’ vendor license.

He took the next step in 2022 opening his retail store at the Main Street location in Peekskill. He figured this time timing was playing in his favor as New York state legalized the sale of marijuana.

State agency slams the door with no explanation

Sanchez went through a comprehensive four-month training program created by the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and was on track to get his license to open what would have been Peekskill’s first legal cannabis dispensary. He was listed #58 on a licensing review roster that included more than 7,000 candidates.

The payoff to good timing this time came for Sanchez on Feb. 13, 2024 when he got the call with the news. The OCM had approved the license for Papi’s Secret Stash and soon the business would be off and running.

“I got the exciting call from my consultant – you got it!” the consultant told Sanchez. Calls of congratulations from many people in the industry who heard the news followed.

And then the door slammed shut. The next day when the resolution by OCM to formally approve the licenses appeared, Papi’s had disappeared.

Ten days later on Feb. 23 the same state agency that approved his license emailed Sanchez and told him his license “… was incorrectly moved to ‘approved/fees due status via an administrative or technological oversight.”

Three days after that horrible news, the OCM sent Sanchez this message. The rescinding of his license “… was not a denial of your application. Your application still remains in process at this time. I wish I had some more information for you at this time” the OCM staff person wrote “but unfortunately I do not. Please continue to monitor your inbox for updates.”

At that point, Sanchez says “I’m upset, but hoping they made an error and would fix it in the next round or two. But they aren’t even responding to my attorney.”

And that was that. Since then two other Peekskill dispensaries and another in Cortlandt have been licensed by the state and plan to open this summer while Sanchez has to watch his opportunity languish in a bureaucratic fog of no answers.

Suing to get Papi’s license from OCM

With hundreds of thousands of dollars already invested in the business, and no explanations from OCM when or if a license will be granted, Sanchez has now gone to court. He’s hired an attorney who filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Westchester County on June 5.

His attorney Mark Weinstein of Tarrytown is asking the court to direct OCM to issue Papi’s Secret Stash the state license that they already said was issued on Feb. 13. He’s also seeking legal fees and other expenses that keep adding up for Sanchez.

In court papers, Weinstein wrote “[Papi’s] was approved, a resolution was passed by OCM, petitioner paid licensing fees and OCM has failed to issue the license. Further, as of the date of this filing, OCM has ‘Approved’ the license.”

A spokesperson from the OCM press office told the Herald ” The Office of Cannabis Management does not comment on pending litigation.”

Weinstein has filed a Freedom of Information request for all the communications between Peekskill and New York state and another for all the communications within the state pertaining to Papi’s. He’s waiting for a response.

“I’m very close with a lot of people in Peekskill. I’m friends with people on the Council, people in the BID and we talk,” Sanchez said. “From what I understand [the city] made comments about us being illicit and I think that made the OCM gun shy and now both the city and the state are in a bad spot. Based on hearsay, they violated our rights,” Sanchez said.

A story in the Herald last August recounted an armed robbery at Papi’s involving marijuana. Laws regarding marijuana sales in New York were still unclear and unenforced. “At that time we followed the rules we were given, and as they changed, we changed,” Sanchez says.

A brand, a business, a legacy – not a smoke shop

Eric Sanchez grew up in Peekskill. He earned an MBA from Fordham University and has years of business experience including leading a department of 27 people in a $500 million operation.

Papi’s Secret Stash is the result of years of work creating a character, building a brand and executing a business plan that involves far more than a small retail storefront.

With a 13-acre farm in upstate New York, Sanchez plans to use the microbusiness license he still hopes to get to grow the product and process it for sale to other dispensaries as well as run his own store.

Because another approved marijuana dispensary, Valley Greens, will be operating their store within 1,000 feet of Papi’s on Central Avenue, Sanchez will have to find another retail space in Peekskill.

The cartoon shows the Papi character on the left. He represents the “salesmen” of the past who sold pot on the street. Eric says the common phrase was “go see Papi” when you went to buy weed.

“When we get our microbusiness license, we can operate the farm and get the processing going,” he says. “As soon as the other local stores open I could supply them with product.”

Sanchez learned all about timing, joining the military a week before Sept. 11 and opening a business in the face of a worldwide pandemic. He’s not letting a setback now stop him from building Papi’s Secret Stash in Peekskill.

“Our brand is still growing and we’re still creating content, working on a cartoon,” he says.

“This is a legacy brand and not just a store. I’ve been working on this for eight years. This is my college thesis, this is what I want to leave to my kids. Papi hopefully will be here after I’m gone.”





About the Contributor
Jim Roberts
Jim Roberts has been in this business for more than 35 years (hard to believe) and still learning every day. A third-generation Peekskill resident, he started as a lowly researcher at the Westchester Business Journal in 1986 and learned how to be a reporter from many veterans in the field. He’s worked in private companies, Connecticut state government and wrote for the Co-op City Times for 10 years before retiring from full-time work in 2019. Roberts wants to contribute to building the Herald into a news website for residents who care about what’s happening in Peekskill.