The largest dispensary in the world, Planet 13, just broke ground on its new SuperStore. Located in Santa Ana, California, Planet 13’s Orange County Cannabis SuperStore Entertainment Complex is expected to open on July 1, 2021. Its CEO calls it Planet 13 2.0, thanks to massive digital screen displays and unique tech-art installations.
New renderings offer a glimpse of the interior, which will total 55,000-square-feet for the entire building with 16,500 square feet allocated to the dispensary itself. Other areas inside the space are reserved for ancillary stores and accompanying businesses (in Las Vegas, the Planet 13 houses a Mexican restaurant called Trece Eatery and Spirits). Located at 3400 Warner Ave Suite A, the new SuperStore will be Planet 13’s second largest retail location, after the flagship which sits at 112,000 square feet.
The Las Vegas-based company was meticulous in its planning before expanding into a the largest marketplace in the country. I spoke with Larry Scheffler, Planet 13 Co-CEO and co-chairman of the board, about the thought that went into this SuperStore’s design. Scheffler talks architecture, the importance of good service, robot sword fights, and actionable advice for cannabis entrepreneurs in the industry.
Tell me, when do you anticipate the California outpost of Planet 13, Orange County Cannabis SuperStore Entertainment Complex, will be open?
Larry Scheffler: It’s a 55,000-square-foot building, built out in the center of a U-shaped property. We’re expecting July 1, 2021, that’s for the first phase, and then we have a second and third phase after that. The main dispensary opening is July 1st.
What sets this space apart from your flagship in Las Vegas?
We’re calling Santa Ana Planet 13 2.0. It’s more high-tech in its designs, it’s still an attraction, it’s gotta be a destination. Everyone wants to be entertained. We wanted to figure out how to make it unique. We didn’t want to duplicate Las Vegas because it’s its own animal. We want to build it into the lifestyle of California, the beach scene, that’s a big part of the culture in Santa Ana. There’s one feature, it looks like a giant wave from the ocean. When you first walk in, it displays waves on the ocean with an interactive digital floor. It leaves footprints on the sand when you walk, it looks like sand on a normal beach, and then it washes away when the waves come. At the same time, what feeds that, not only the ocean, but there is an 80-foot-long digital wall. It literally looks like Niagara Falls coming down, splashing onto a portal that leads into the dispensary. It creates a projected visual as if you are walking through the waterfall.
We will also have some different types of special effects, smoke, interactive games going on behind the scenes. A camera at night showing the live sunset, a live beach scene with the sun going down at night. And from there, it leads you now into a dispensary. As you saw, you’re greeted by a 16-foot tall octopus. Beautiful he’s got his tentacles all up, greeting you. Lit up with LED lights, and one tentacle he is crushing the air conditioning vent, and with another, he is grabbing a pipe and pulling it down from the ceiling. Around him are 500 umbrellas that create the atmosphere of the whole ceiling. We have a smoke C02 fog that hits the top of umbrellas and flows over the edges.
What “emotions” or ideologies of California are incorporated into the dispensary through its design?
It’s really, blending into the fabric of California. When we’re in Boston, that will be different. When we’re in Florida, it’ll be different. It’s our interpretation of what we want to do, with the lush plants and palm trees, as we buildout third phase which will be a smoking club. It’ll be another place to sit with live trees and plants and enjoy the beautiful California atmosphere. Kinda neat in California, it’s one of the only cities, too, where you can open a whole wall with moving glass. Very few places can you actually do that, we’ll take advantage of that in the atrium. We just want to have the vibes of California and the beach community, and a laid-back atmosphere. Fun, colorful, and a great time. Even the Volkswagen bus, as you can see, we have an original one. We’re playing tribute to the LA beach scene again with the bus.
I don’t think the Volkswagen bus worked when you were here in Las Vegas, but when you get in, the doors are always left open, they hit a button that says “get smoked.” And they then get out and smoke billows out of the bus. It’s another Cheech and Chong van moment. The line was so long that when we opened it, the experience so popular, we actually had too much smoke. It was one of the most successful attractions we had. What happens is, they tend to advertise for us. Marketing is still very restricted for cannabis, on social you can’t really advertise. If people are talking on social media, saying ‘you got to see this place,’ that’s how we can reach consumers on social media.
We were so busy in the middle of COVID, hitting 90,000 people a month in October. The wait on Thursday, Friday, Saturday was 120 people in line. We were losing 25 percent of customers because of the wait time. When COVID’s over, and tourists come back to Vegas, it’s going to be absolutely crazy for us. We decided to go from 42 cash registers to over 80 dispensary cash registers. We’ve doubled the size of the dispensary even in Las Vegas. We’re in the middle of that process now. We are adding more innovations: floating products, suspended in the air. All kinds of things. We have to stay up and ahead of everything.The orbs run right now Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they’re four feet in diameter, there are five of them. When they’re going on, the music begins, everybody stops, grabs their camera, everyone takes a video shot of the orb show. It’s the first installation of its kind in the western hemisphere.
Do you have a favorite design element our readers can look out for? Are there artists or inspirations in the state that Planet 13 wanted to showcase?
The two main ones are the umbrellas with the smoke coming up through the ceiling and the digital wall. There are so many visual effects going on them. Watching the water pour, it’s amazing, but we will be adding different effects that we will be constantly changing.
What about the potential stores going in, are those going to be “Cali”-esque? What is your hope for those rental spaces and ancillary companies?
Yes, they will be, but the design will be controlled by us. It’s too hard to turn over control that doesn’t follow with our theme, even here, we do the restaurant design. We’re going to have a retail store opening here, a 2,000-square-foot clothing store for all our memorabilia and sundries. Everything we control, we design, and we’ll have the same thing in phase two and phase three. With the restaurant and consumption lounge, they’ll be designed with a California theme, different than here.
Your Phase 3 includes consumption, stipulated on when the laws change in Santa Ana to accommodate some consumption lounges in the future?
That’s correct, they’re still working on it now. Nevada’s a little different, there’s always a conflict with the casinos having their clubs, and the cannabis industry pulling customers from their venues, so it’s different here. In California, we don’t have that same group were competing with. They’re working on consumption lounges in Santa Ana city, I have a feeling consumption will pass in California sooner.
I think we’ve got a good location, we’re about ten minutes south of Disneyland, four miles from South Coast Plaza, the largest mall in Southern California. And 1.5 stoplights from the 405 freeway. We think it’s a fantastic location, visibility, great parking, about 125 spaces for the customers. Those are important.This can be as ideological as you want to be, like your highest hopes: In your opinion, what does the cannabis retail world look like in 5 years?
I think cannabis will be legalized in all states, almost all states. It’s really going to be treated like alcohol sales in 5 years. You can watch now, state after state after state is moving towards legalization in some form. I can see Planet 13 in 15 locations coast-to-coast. If a city is big enough to hold a sports team, then it’s big enough to hold our model. You’ll see the larger stores, and also we have a smaller store called Medi-Zen, a Planet 13 neighborhood store. We don’t want to call the neighborhood store small, we want consumers to know the neighborhood store has the same quality, same service, but it’s not actually the SuperStore.
Where does Planet 13 want to go next? Do you have any marketplaces you’d be able to hint to for our readers that your company has its eyes set on?
We’re in different levels of talks in many states: Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida is a fantastic one. Boston is a great one, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania. We’re going to do a little more research. We have a strict list of requirements for us to make it a Planet 13 location. To show you how hard it is for us, how much critical time we put into it, we looked at 100 sites in California. Once we saw Santa Ana, it checked all the boxes, and we went on it. We’re not going to push to get into a state. It has to fit our model.
Your best piece of advice to offer other cannabis industry entrepreneurs?
Well, we talk a lot about this to our investors. One, above everything else, is service, service, service. It’s knowledge of your product and service to the customer. When they ask a question, they want to know the answer. We have 80 to 90 budtenders here, and we have classes that go on every day. The classroom is set up, we do so much on training. The classes never stop 5 days a week. Two years ago, they had a budtender world cup at Mandalay Bay. They had 700 budtenders when it was all said and done, our budtenders took first place and runner-up in the world.
Service, service, service, knowledge of the product. Everyone has got to treat the customer well, from the guard to the host. They need to be treated the way you want to be treated. The other one is, can’t stress this enough: you spend the investor’s money as if it’s coming out of your pocket. Some owners who’ve never had a business before may think, ‘it’s not really my money,’ so they make goofy decisions. We spend it like it’s our money. It’s coming out of my pocket. We’ll spend it when the deal is right, if not, we will wait on the money. We are sitting on $140 million in cash and no debt. People are like, ‘when are buying something?’ When we find the right thing, we buy it. That’s why you invested in us. Don’t get a big head and start buying to buy, it’ll eat you up eventually.