(This article appears in the March issue of the Marijuana Business Journal).

Marijuana is still stigmatized in many communities. With the right design, a cannabis store can become more convenient for customers.

There is no one right way to design a marijuana shop. But thoughtful design choices that reflect your brand and values can create a buzz, attract new customers and keep them coming back.

Construction overview

Megan Stone, an experienced dispensary designer, is the founder and creative director of High Road Design Studio in Phoenix, which specializes in marijuana design and branding. Since founding the company in 2013, Stone’s team has operated 62 cannabis outlets in 17 states.

After establishing the basic boundaries of the new clinic project, such as. The next step, according to Stone, is to listen very carefully to the customer’s brand, their story, who they want to be and how they want to do it.

While it is difficult to categorize all stores, Stone distinguishes three major archetypes of pharmacy design, each exemplified by the High Road project:

Retail trade in large quantities of goods : Happy Valley, a Massachusetts recreational marijuana store in Boston and Gloucester, is designed to maximize customer flow.

To accomplish that, Stone says, High Road uses the Express Checkout system, which separates the cashier from the order counter to speed up transaction time and minimize bottlenecks.

The shopping experience has not been neglected either. You still have a nice living room. The products are very (nicely) displayed and everything is behind glass, Stone says.

Education retail: The education-oriented design fits well with medical marijuana dispensaries like Maitri Medicinals in Pittsburgh, where Stone says the counseling room experience is the cornerstone of the design.

The way we organize the merchandising really encourages conversations about the products, so customers can ask questions and learn more about different ways to use cannabis, Stone said.

This educational approach is especially important in Pennsylvania, he added, because the state originally did not allow the sale of smoking cigarettes. Their brand is completely about education about the plant, how to use it, its benefits, and our store design absolutely had to reference that.

Experienced trade: Gnome Grown, an Oregon-based retailer with a quirky but rich brand history, is an example of a more empirical approach to retail marijuana store design, according to Stone.

We really wanted to embody their brand: their organic nature, their respect for the environment, their commitment to quality, and just their approachable, dwarf-friendly attitude, for lack of a better term, she explained.

That’s why, according to Stone, her design team has carefully considered everything from finishes to furniture and accessories to convey authenticity, craftsmanship and quality.

Inspiring serenity in California

The West Hollywood, California-based retailer Calma was named the most attractive place to buy cannabis by LA Weekly.

The clinic is designed to release a feminine energy, says CEO Mara Stusser.

The striking pink exterior, decorated with monster leaves, was hand-painted by a local artist. The floors and furnishings are marble, and one of the walls of the pharmacy is adorned with a huge LED video screen showing mostly soothing nature scenes.

The room itself is very welcoming. It’s very open, very calming, says Stusser.

She adds that the elegant design, with large window sills facing the street, attracts passersby.

Sometimes people tell us: Wow, I had to come here because I didn’t know what it was, she said. They are curious because they are not used to seeing a cannabis business that looks like ours.

For other retailers just starting out, Stusser recommends thinking from the customer’s perspective.

I feel like when designing a cannabis retail space you really have to think about your customer: Why are they here? What do they want to see? How do they want to feel? She said.

I want your design to truly reflect your brand and mission.

Highly minimalist design in Toronto

The Edition cannabis store opened in Toronto in December and was applauded by several design publications, according to Elle Décor at the time: This could be the world’s slickest cannabis shop.

Founder and CEO Ryan Roebuck said he wanted to break the stigma of what a traditional cannabis dispensary should look like.

Roebuck said the design of the First Edition location is intended to give cannabis shoppers access to high-end stores, particularly older, wealthier people who are used to shopping at other upscale stores, without intimidating other shoppers with their demographics.

For us, luxury is not necessarily synonymous with white gloves, silver trays (and) high prices. Luxury for us means experience, impeccable quality and an overall beautiful environment, he said.

Roebuck describes the store as light, open and airy. The scent, created in collaboration with Murphy & Jo Candle Co, permeates the publishing room.

If you’re dealing with good designers and architects, the questions they ask at the beginning of the process don’t have to be: What do you want it to look like? said Rebec. It has to be what you want it to be. How do you want it to go?

A touch of Detroit in Flint, Michigan.

Cannabis retailer Common Citizen’s store in Flint, Michigan, has won the International Council of Shopping Centers’ 2019 Gold Award for store design.

Ordinary Citizen in Flint, Michigan, uses design and color to distinguish product categories.
(Courtesy photo)

COO Joe Jarvis describes the venue as warm and welcoming, with a design that puts customer service first.

From an aesthetic point of view and in terms of the choice of materials we use, we want to be attractive and above all reach a wide audience. We want people to be able to see themselves in our store, he said.

Jarvis said the materials, which include metal, glass and finished but unpainted wood, reflect the renaissance of Detroit, the state’s largest city. It has a warm feel, but also a bit of a Detroit feel, Jarvis says of the design of the store, which is an hour northwest of Detroit.

The average person categorizes their cannabis products based on the common moods they satisfy, such as disconnection or mild relief. The salesperson uses design elements and colors to illustrate these categories on the sales floor.

Coffee in the shop gives customers a chance to relax and unwind. (Or it was when there was no pandemic).

We don’t want people coming in and going out quickly. … We really want to communicate with our customers, Jarvis said.

Budgetary considerations

According to Stone, design costs for a reputable company like High Road can range from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on factors such as the scope of services needed and the project’s schedule.

But even retailers without such a budget can benefit from a brief consultation with a designer, she says.

If someone came to us with a $500 budget, we would be happy to sit down with them and advise them, and at least help them make some really important decisions about how to spend their money, Stone said.

For do-it-yourself stores, Stone said it was critical to provide professional input on display media.

She also made an important observation: The money spent on the designers is just one step in the complex construction process.

The average interior designer is not a contractor. This is not HGTV, where we come in and present the piece and paint the walls, she says.

Designers are experts at creating plans, choosing materials and making sure the space is built to serve your business, Stone says. We need strong professionals (coming after us) to ensure that what the client paid for during the design process is actually something they will enjoy for years to come.

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