Columbia Care rebrands with Apple-inspired ‘Cannabist’ retail experiences
Cannabis dispensary Columbia Care is rolling out a rebrand and elevating its retail locations as the recreational use of cannabis becomes legal in more states and starts to normalize.
The weed cultivator and manufacturer, with a reputation as a medical supplier, is aligning its retail properties across the country under one name: Cannabist. Columbia Care will remain as the parent company, operating redesigned dispensaries across the country that aim to attract the growing number of Americans who are looking into cannabis for recreational use, as well as medicinal purposes.
Jesse Channon, chief growth officer at Columbia Care, says there is a need for welcoming, inviting spaces for people who are discovering the plant for the first time. With an Apple-like retail setting, new technology and staff undergoing new training, Cannabist hopes to deliver just that.
“Right now, a lot of dispensary and retail experiences are really built around the buyer, someone coming in who knows about the product,” says Channon. “What we want to do is create an experience that was driven off of this concept of empathetic education and really no judgement, come as you are.”
As such, the new retail spaces are inspired by the hospitality industry as well as the Apple Genius bar and the sophisticated style of Starbucks. The move follows a trend in the cannabis space—a shift away from shady weed deals to luxurious, high-end shops. In the case of Cannabist, visitors can expect curated, higher-end products across price points, from $16 CBD masks to $100 cannabis tablets. In fact, some items might actually be less expensive than before, says Channon.
Previously, Columbia Care dispensaries had the product available in boxes behind the cashier. The new dispensaries place the weed strains front and center. There’s also now bar areas for discovery and self-serve kiosks. The design of the new shops pays homage to the fact that Columbia Care began in New York with an art deco design and aesthetic, and designed with the three core pillars of the brand in mind: “Higher knowledge, higher standard and higher experience.” The tagline “higher experience” appears on the wall of the space itself.
“We wanted beautiful spaces that would feel very welcoming and approachable,” says Channon. “It’s a consistent experience with bars, like an Apple Genius Bar, as designated areas for product demos to learn about the plant. There was a lot of thought and care that went into it, drawing a ton of inspiration from the hospitality space. There’s so much thought and care that goes into the design in the hospitality space because they know that [with] the incredible spectrum of customers that will walk through the door, there has to be something there for everyone.”
Along with new design, the shops will launch proprietary technology, created in-house, that will help the discovery experience, Channon says. The staff has also received new training to help customers find the right strains for them.
The retail overhaul will gradually roll out over the next two years. The first redesigned store opened on April 30 in Springville, Utah, and three more are opening by the end of May in Tempe, Arizona, Villa Park, Illinois and San Diego, California. By the end of 2023, 60 out of the 68 retail properties owned by Columbia Care will have been remade into Cannabist destinations.
The rebrand helps Columbia Care become known to consumers through one brand rather than the several retail brands it has acquired in its 17 U.S. markets. There are a number of ways customers recognize the brand now: Through Project Cannabis in California or Patriot Care in Massachusetts. “We wanted something that would provide a through line across the country,” says Channon. “A name you could recognize and know, and a consistent experience.”
Not all Columbia Care brands will disappear under the Cannabist name, however. Some retail sites, like the company’s The Green Solution in Colorado, will remain with its name and space, since the brand is widely recognized and other Cannabist locations in the same area can offer different experiences, says Channon.
Channon would not reveal the cost of the rebrand but said it is “significant.” “The investment is significant because the one thing we wanted to ensure is that this wasn’t just changing the color on the walls,” he says. “It wasn’t about getting it perfect or exactly right out of the gate, it was about creating a platform that we felt we could continue to adapt and innovate on top of.”
Columbia Care worked with Atlanta-based creative agency 22Squared; New York-based architectural firm Method Architects; Columbus-based merchandising firm ZenGenius; and Massachusetts-based signage firm Poyant Signs on the retail redesign.
Channon says an advertising campaign for the rebrand is in the works. The company just signed with VaynerX’s The Sasha Group for an upcoming campaign.
The pandemic has sped along the adoption and use of recreational cannabis, and cannabis companies are seeing an uptick in sales. In 2020, Columbia Care saw its combined revenue leap to $197.9 million, an increase of 151% year-over-year.
According to MRI-Simmons’ April National Cannabis Study for 2021, the U.S. saw an 18% increase in adults using the plant between 2019 and the start of 2021. The study found that 26 million Americans reported using some form of cannabis because of COVID-19, with 24 million saying they will continue their use after the pandemic is over.
Over the past year, the company launched Virtual Care, a service where customers can shop virtually for cannabis. The company also recently acquired a 34-acre weed cultivation greenhouse in Long Island, New York for $42.5 million, gearing up for production in the state where recreational cannabis just became legal.