This is the second article in a two-part series on what a cannabis retail shop might look like in Boothbay Harbor. The Boothbay Register spoke with five companies from across the U.S. about community and education concluding with what a storefront might look like. Part one focused on the business and safety aspects a company would need to consider.
The companies we talked to were MedMen from Los Angeles, California; Infinite Wellness Center (IWC8) in Fort Collins, Colorado; Highroad Studio, a principal and interior design company based in Phoenix, Arizona; Wellness Connection of Maine based in Portland; and Pharmer’s Market in Boothbay.
The consensus on community and education was that because there are common misconceptions on the substance and its legitimate market, people need to be better educated.
“Many people view the cannabis industry as very rudimentary, but, in fact, it’s much more sophisticated when it comes to the products we offer,” said Patricia Rosi, CEO of Wellness Connection of Maine. “There are many more facts (and) certifications and (there is more) professionalism in this industry than people might think or that the media might communicate.”
Rosi said the process is an ongoing relationship with the community through municipal authorities and law enforcement who can keep business owners up-to-date on what people think about certain steps.
Max Poling, marketing manager for IWC8, went a little further, saying for a cannabis retail store to be successful, it must engage the community in a constructive way, on top of providing employment and tax revenues.
“These places are inviting, friendly, and passionate about furthering cannabis knowledge in the community,” said Poling.
According to Rosi, conversations based on facts, processes, methods and standard operating procedures will educate people about cannabis and the industry and earn the public support needed for success.
Along similar lines, Megan Stone of High Road Studio said the first and foremost need is making local patrons and neighbors proud and comfortable. “My clients who have been most successful in tourist areas have leveraged the power of their local identity in a way that makes their business feel integrated yet welcoming to outsiders and visitors,” said Stone.
Communities can determine how and to what extent businesses can operate, and that is why education is so important, added Yi. “(This includes) security requirements, building codes, taxation — like any other business,” said Yi. “It is about giving power to communities to decide what they want or don’t want in their neighborhoods.”
One thing Boothbay Harbor can learn from Boothbay is the type of storefront that wide public support created out of Pharmers Market.
Asked if Pharmers Market received any pushback from the community, Darrell Gudroe, consultant at Pharmers Market, said, “No, not from the community at all. In fact, we were pushed forward very well by the community.”
Should Boothbay go all-in on recreational cannabis, Gudroe said his business intends to be part of a larger, more literal farmers market, as he and Martin are purchasing the entire building in the short future.
“Within our Market, we have business plans for medical, as well as ... recreational and a third business that will be a standalone head shop/accessory store,” Gudroe said. “We will also be using the plaza as a starter space for our grow room. Additionally, we are looking at other locations in other communities to open up similar facilities.”
Gudroe also said, “In the new recreational model, there will be a different license for each of those things and you may obtain both of them — do your own growing, do your own selling … but you will have places that will be just a storefront. When you come in here next year, you’ll find just a recreational storefront. It’ll be a much smaller space than this (caregiver storefront) because you won’t be able to sell anything in there other than marijuana-containing products — meaning you can’t even have a bottle of water available for sale.”
What does a cannabis dispensary look like in Boothbay Harbor? The answer, said Yi, is: What do we want it to look like? One thing that is for certain, according to Yi, is what it should not look like: “A place where you don’t belong.”
“It looks like a coffee shop. They come in all shapes and colors,” said Rosi. “For us — we are a dispensary and we’ve always taken the stand of wanting to be everything people thought we were not — downtown in an open, well-lit area, welcoming, … and (private) for the folks who come to us.”
Stone said she designs retail stores that offer a patently appropriate, safe and professional atmosphere.
“(Shops should) look like a medical office meets spa meets cosmetics store meets local grocer. It doesn't look like a methadone clinic. It doesn't look like a strip club. It doesn't look like a dive bar. It doesn't look like a check-cashing place.”
Poling said a cannabis retail store looks like any other retail store, “depending on its size and scale.” He compares a boutique-style cannabis retail store to the atmosphere and appearance of a clothing specialty store while a much larger, warehouse scale cannabis outlet might seem more like a “big box retailer.”
Gudroe said he and business owner Jan Martin continue to make Pharmers Market as comfortable as possible. Their main goal is the ability to service anybody and everybody, supplying the items people need or look for. “You don’t feel intimidated and you don’t feel like you’re walking into a pot den or a smoke shop,” said Gudroe.
“This is what it looks like,” continued Gudroe, motioning to the rest of his store as he talked about the importance of maintaining the shop’s look and integrity. He said the last thing he wants is to have two different types of shops and having one customer base uncomfortable going into the other shop.
“I think the difference will be that that counter will have actual marijuana in it instead of CBD products, those CBD edibles could be THC edibles, and we will not have the furniture in it, maybe, but other than that it will look a lot like this … We put the green cross on the side of the road instead of the marijuana leaf. If you look around, aside from some very small things, we really try not to make it overbearing … we try to make it look like something that would fit right in.”