It’s difficult to believe three years have come and gone since the COVID-19 pandemic’s onslaught changed life forever. Aftershocks continue to ripple through societies worldwide, but thankfully vaccines, global awareness, and behavior modification have reduced what once was a rampaging killer to a much more manageable endemic disease—at least for the moment.
Not even a devastating disease could dent expansion in the cannabis retail sector. In fact, new dispensaries debuted even during the pandemic’s darkest days. As the mg Magazine team perused the past three years of issues, we uncovered more than a few gems from the period that display design innovations we’re sure will become de rigueur. Some already have.
Dispensary design is remarkably eclectic. The best concepts reflect the people, history, aesthetics, and sensibilities of local communities. Such designs are both timeless and trendsetting, reflecting the past, honoring the present, and previewing the future all at once.
Here are twelve that particularly impressed us.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio
Bright, airy spaces awash in natural colors and brimming with rustic wood, rattan, and living greenery, The Botanist dispensaries resemble sun-filled greenhouses. Among the first wave of experiential retail operations, the Acreage Holdings properties encourage curiosity and evoke magical realism. (March 2020)
For designer Gi Paoletti, an empty 6,500-square-foot warehouse was a glorious blank canvas begging for Instagram stardom. By blending Stiiizy’s sleek vape and South LA streetwear aesthetics with architectural nods to the recent past and distant future, she created a sensory-immersive space that is part art installation, part dispensary, and part boutique. (April 2020)
Nestled in an affluent enclave where the median age is sixty-three and the median net worth approaches $6 million, Synchronicity Holistic stands out as a beacon of elegance. Valentia Valentine opened her boutique just as the pandemic struck, offering seniors—particularly women—spa-like luxury, personalized care, and all the education they desire. (November 2020)
Dalwhinnie Farms’ rustic-bucolic-chic aesthetic and curated product selection are designed to appeal to well-heeled locals and tourists alike. The upmarket shop’s sophisticated equestrian vibe sets it apart from nine other dispensaries in a high-end resort town that is home to only 7,000 year-round residents. (December 2020)
The Leaf El Paseo
Palm Desert, California
The final project of the late business magnate and celebrated philanthropist R.D. “Dee” Hubbard, The Leaf El Paseo faced numerous political and stigma challenges prior to opening on “the Rodeo Drive of Palm Desert.” The shop both blends in with and stands out from neighbors including Anthropologie, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Louis Vuitton. (January 2021)
Exuding undeniable elegance and sophisticated minimalism—including in its intentionally small, tightly curated inventory—Edition X in Toronto’s tony The Annex treats products like objets d’art. The architects’ use of industrial fiberglass gridwork solved functional and aesthetic challenges and represented a first in retail design. (February 2021)
Co-founded by Emmy-winning actor Woody Harrelson and comedian Bill Maher, among others, The Woods is a masterpiece of intentional, sustainable design. The vintage 1929 building’s structure was modified very little, and interiors were constructed with repurposed materials. A Zen garden and consumption lounge add unique dimensions. (August 2022)
Wyllow’s small footprint contains a big personality. Designed by Space Objekt, the 350-square-foot shop’s unassuming façade resembles a boutique jeweler by day. But at night the building throbs with the neon glow of a psychedelic brand activation at a rave in a cathedral thanks to ceiling-height arches connected by neon strips and dichroic film. (September 2022)
Resting somewhere between modern art gallery and classical museum, Alchemy’s design presents an eccentric symphony of colors, shapes, and materials where soft and hard geometry blissfully coexist. A clever zoned lighting scheme elicits distinct emotional responses. The store leans heavily into cutting-edge tech and plays well on Instagram. (June 2021)
Slap-bang in the middle of the University of California’s Berkeley campus, The Apothecarium caters to an affluent, youthful clientele that continues to honor the area’s countercultural roots. The store opened at the height of the pandemic, relying on its simple, efficient floor plan and striking interior finishes to communicate despite social distancing. (October 2021)
Toronto and Ottawa, Canada
Superette’s retro bodegas are stylishly avant garde. Bursting with bright colors and kitschy decor, the chain’s designers drew inspiration from familiar spaces (minimarts and neighborhood delis, for example) to create destinations that are at once outlandish, comforting, and rebelliously imaginative. (January 2022)
Coast to Coast
Coast to Coast’s expansive space in Los Angeles’s Arts District fuses history, artful design, and craft flower. Housed in an early-twentieth-century industrial building previously used as a factory and an art gallery, the dispensary’s standout features include an innovative hash bar and a large show grow. (June 2022)