A new con­cept store is part art gal­leriy, part dis­pen­sary.

5 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

Not that long ago, vis­it­ing a dis­pen­sary meant hand­ing over your ID, wait­ing your turn in a hold­ing area, then being ush­ered through a met­al door by a gun-tot­ing guard while secu­ri­ty cam­eras mon­i­tored you like you were a com­mon tres­pass­er. Sure, you got what you need­ed, but it kind of felt like a con­ju­gal vis­it between you and your new batch of edi­bles.

Well, the face of dis­pen­saries is rapid­ly chang­ing, from the Apple-esque ethos of Med­Men to the exclu­siv­i­ty of Bar­neys’ The High End. The lat­est and largest to dec­o­rate the LA land­scape, Sti­i­izy (rhymes with “easy”) takes its own unique approach, plant­i­ng its flag­ship store on the out­skirts of the down­town arts dis­trict and design­ing a cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that cel­e­brates that con­nec­tion.

“We want­ed to cre­ate expe­ri­en­tial retail in the cannabis space,” explains Elis­a­beth Baron, Chief Mar­ket­ing Offi­cer of Stiiizy’s par­ent com­pa­ny, Shryne Group. “You come in, you’re exposed to icon­ic LA artists, and then con­sumers can expe­ri­ence their own kind of art.”

Indeed, from the moment you leave the indus­tri­al­ly drab park­ing lot and enter the 125,000 square foot struc­ture — 6500 square feet of retail space, with rough­ly 100,000 more allot­ted to cul­ti­va­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion, and anoth­er 22,000 for man­u­fac­tur­ing — art takes cen­ter stage. Vis­i­tors are greet­ed by a trip­py, two-sided Insta­gram pod that invites inter­ac­tion.

“It’s a dis­cov­ery for them,” says Sti­i­izy Co-Founder James Kim. “It’s a whole dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence, reflec­tive of what you might think of when you’re smok­ing cannabis.” Works from street artists like Risk and Mis­ter Car­toon, now a tat­too artist whose client list includes Kobe Bryant, Bey­once, Dr. Dre and Justin Tim­ber­lake, adorn the lob­by walls; a neon tun­nel leads to four futur­is­tic-look­ing retail pods, each offer­ing an iden­ti­cal­ly wide array of prod­ucts; a mas­sive mur­al from Ret­na, anoth­er LA-based street artist with a long resume of shows world­wide, stretch­es near­ly to the top of the 35-foot high walls.

While the art will be swapped out peri­od­i­cal­ly, you’ll find a more per­ma­nent col­lec­tion — $50,000 worth of tat­toos — on Kim him­self, who got involved in cannabis after a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq. “Obvi­ous­ly you can’t use cannabis in the mil­i­tary, so we drank a lot,” he says mat­ter-of-fact­ly. “I could do an 18-pack by myself, so I came out with that type of habit, and then I fell in love with cannabis, and I think that’s what real­ly changed my men­tal health.” Kim recalls the almost bipo­lar neces­si­ty of switch­ing to “kill mode” in the mil­i­tary, as well as the dif­fi­cul­ty in switch­ing it off. “Cannabis put me at ease, it helped me sta­bi­lize my anger and my emo­tions. I have a lot of friends who are on Sero­quel, Xanax, anti­de­pres­sants…. Sero­quel is pow­er­ful, my friends were drool­ing. I didn’t want to be brain-dead, so I refused the drugs and I fell in love with cannabis.”

And where Bar­neys might ele­gant­ly tip­toe around talk of cannabis, Sti­i­izy embraces it. The over­sized retail pods each car­ry over 55 brands, sev­er­al of which are exten­sions of the brand and “pow­ered by Sti­i­izy” — like Bii­it (edi­bles) and Lii­it (flower). Edi­bles are dis­played open­ly rather than wrapped in opaque pack­ag­ing, and non-THC sam­ples are avail­able so con­sumers can test their tex­ture and their fla­vor pro­files. There are even plans to show off that volu­mi­nous grow space.  Add to that a gift shop and acces­sories area, a per­son­al­iza­tion sta­tion, and a dis­play of high-qual­i­ty skate­boards as a nod to Kim’s roots, and it’s not hard to see this as a dis­pen­sary with some­thing for every­one. Says Baron, “When James was grow­ing up, his com­mu­ni­ty was super diverse — dif­fer­ent races, dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties — and cannabis was a uni­fi­er.”

So, was a dis­pen­sary that wel­comes diver­si­ty all part of the plan?  Ehh… sort of. Kim, who has no for­mal busi­ness or mar­ket­ing back­ground, says that he got inspi­ra­tion from Las Vegas of all places. “When you walk into a casi­no, not every­one is wealthy there, but every­one is lux­u­ry in there. They’re all pre­sent­ed with a high-qual­i­ty expe­ri­ence, and that’s what I want­ed to bring. Even if you’re spend­ing $20, the expe­ri­ence is lux­u­ry.”

Lux­u­ry, but not exclu­siv­i­ty; after all, this is down­town LA, not Bev­er­ly Hills. As for future expan­sion, the plan is to open a new loca­tion every month for the next six months, start­ing with one in San Francisco’s Mis­sion Dis­trict. As always, art will be para­mount, and the space will reflect a per­son­al vision that’s authen­tic and idio­syn­crat­ic rather than strate­gic.  Reflect­ing on how his down­town space came togeth­er, Kim says, “We were just freestyling.  It wasn’t about focus groups, I don’t know about that stuff. I just want­ed to make some­thing cool for my friends.”

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