“You can do it private or you can do it big, but you have to be from New York.”

As co-founder of the brand Bodega Boyz, Paras Chhabra has been driven to do spectacular things. In just two years of operation, he’s managed to achieve locations in multiple states and Canada. Known for producing rare, superior organic cultivars, the company is also one of the most powerful independently-owned brands recognized by Weedmaps and Leaflink, as well as the top flower provider in Oklahoma. Chhabra accomplished this primarily by bringing Big Apple flair to the Sooner State’s surprisingly fertile market at just the right time. What’s the entrepreneur’s secret to success? Simple – he loves his job.

(C) Bodega Boyz

Bodega Boyz: New York Cannabis For All

“I’m happy to be able to represent New York cannabis all over the world,” Chhabra enthuses. As a Queens native and the child of immigrant parents, the savvy boss grew up visiting classic bodegas, including their off menu cannabinoid offerings. This legacy influenced the Bodega Boyz brand, which evokes its namesake through product design. Packaging for the company’s eighth bags recalls old-fashioned water jugs and milk crates. Pre-rolls are called “loosies,” patterned after deli-style single joints. Through touches like that, Chhabra and his team keep culture alive, reminding consumers of the steps taken from legacy to legal in cannabis history.

The brand also exemplifies New York’s consumption experience in its continually evolving offerings (this season alone, they will release 20 new products). It speaks to Chhabra’s reputation as a “connoisseur smoker,” who leapt at his first chance to enter the cannabis industry. “I become obsessed with projects I really like,” he explains. “And customers will chase quality. When I was into wine a few years back, I became a mini-sommelier and knew where the regions were, where the grapes were grown. When I got into cannabis [professionally], rather than being a consumer, I wanted to understand the plant and genetics and figure out what produces the best flower to its capability.”

Bodega Boyz founder Paras Chhabra (C) Bodega Boyz / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

How Did Bodega Boyz Founder Paras Chhabra Start The Cannabis Brand?

Before cannabis, Chhabra was a jack-of-all-trades who owned 40 T-Mobile and Sprint locations, becoming one of the leading dealers in the New York/New Jersey region. He perfected team-building techniques with his employees that helped him put people first. Another gig, in fashion marketing for the Von Dutch brand, strengthened Chhabra’s business arsenal. But Bodega Boyz sparked the adventurer’s epicurean spirit; he spent months traveling the globe Anthony Bourdain-style, studying under the best breeders, geneticists, and growers to develop the skills to curate a unique strain library.  He also took on a partner, known only as “The Wizard,” who’s responsible for the daily curations of the Bodega Boyz’s plants.

“Through his ten years in the industry, he’ll tell you he never grew such great weed,” Chhabra says of The Wizard. “That’s because he’s never had a partner so passionate about the end result… [But] he’s gifted. When he walks in, the plants are happy. And you get to really feel the plants. You can tell when they’re thriving, when they’re sad, what they’re thinking because they’re living beings. You have to be able to love and connect with your plants. This is a dirty, hard, wet business. It’s a science, it’s a love and appreciation, it’s so many things in one. And you have to respect all those things to create great cannabis.”

Bodega Boyz pre-rolls (C) Bodega Boyz

Bodega Boyz Wows Oklahoma's Cannabis Market, And Multi-State Expansion

Chance timing brought Bodega Boyz to Oklahoma, where they’ve made a deep impression in the state’s medical market with four dispensaries, two cultivation facilities, and presence in 500-plus retailers. Today the vertically-integrated company also has two dispensaries in Canada (with a 75-store license for the country), a California-based cultivator, and just launched in Los Angeles retailers this April. New product categories are being innovated all the time, such as a solventless hash-infused pre-roll line that was introduced at the end of 2022, and the first Bodega Boyz clothing line to debut later this year.

Chhabra takes pride in the opportunity the brand gives him to combine all his passions: environmentalism, education, plant science, and helping people. Bodega Boyz cultivates only organic flower using eco-friendly practices and super-sensitive testing on the plants. Prices are typically maintained at a fraction of what you’d find for similar products on the market, in order to be as universally accessible as possible. Their clothing will be eco-friendly as well, according to the jolly leader: “There’s going to be two clothing lines. One will be streetwear and stylish… something you can wear to dinner or the gym and be comfortable [either way]. The other will be an efficient line which is going to be hemp-based… or biodegradable clothing. We’re still learning how to work with it. But our soft launches on T-shirts have sold out.”

In Oklahoma, one of the nation’s toughest cannabis markets, Chhabra and his team have thrived on the challenge to meet consumer needs. Their inventory sells out daily, and they keep a regular customer waitlist. Meanwhile, the tastemaker himself often works 15-hour days, a commitment which rarely bothers him because there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

“We’ve stayed private and opened up these markets through personal investment, through partnerships, through licensing agreements,” he notes. “You can’t run away from the hard work that’s needed to build a foundational company. At this point, I know what it takes to be a grower, a processor, a sales rep, an account manager. I understand every role because I had to build that role.”

(C) Bodega Boyz

What's Next For Bodega Boyz?

Being in the weeds with his team, literally, is paying off. Bodega Boyz was recently valuated at $40 million, and any profits are reinvested right back into the system to guarantee quality products and service. But where Chhabra still waxes most poetic is what got him there in the first place – it’s all about the plant.

“Cannabis is beautiful,” he rhapsodizes. “How it brings people together… We’re here, we’re going to stay here until the end. And we hope to be able to enjoy the plant and the medicine with as many people who consume it as possible. We hope Bodega Boyz, in the next five or six years, becomes a super household name internationally, and people really recognize what we’ve done. If we can be successful [in Oklahoma] and we come from the New York background and mind-frame of doing business, I feel like we can take over the world.”

For more information, visit thebodegaboyz.com and follow @bodegaboyz on Instagram.

A version of this article was originally published in Honeysuckle's 16th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!

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Featured image: Bodega Boyz founder Paras Chhabra (C) Bodega Boyz