Small-town shop encompasses big-city style
Company: Paper & Leaf
Owners: Brendan Hill, Steve Kessler
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — When co-owners Steve Kessler and Brendan Hill opened Paper & Leaf, they set out to create “a new paradigm for what a cannabis shop could look like,” Hill says.
“One of our ideas was to create the ambiance of a boutique wine shop, where people could come in from our community or tourists from elsewhere and be pleasantly surprised,” Hill says. “We put a lot of effort into creating a space that looked a lot more like an art gallery.”
They accomplished this with several small, but effective innovations.
Rather than keeping all the merchandise behind the counter, like many dispensaries, which pressures customers to make their purchases quickly, Paper & Leaf spreads its products throughout the retail space.
“So when you walk in what you see is all the selection, all around you,” says Hill, who is also the drummer for the band Blues Traveler.
Another quaint detail about Paper & Leaf is the shuttle that transports people from the ferry terminal directly to the retail shop.
“All you have to do is call the store shuttle,” Hill says. “Once you call, one of our guys will come and pick you up and bring you to the shop.”
The shuttle service, much like the greeter at the front door and the style of the location, are reasons why some have called it the nicest marijuana retail store in the Pacific Northwest.
Inside the store, bare lightbulbs hang high above the sales floor from flat-black steel girders. LED-lined displays highlight products like coming attractions on the marquee of a movie theatre. Nearly every detail, down to the records playing over the sound system, looks to be more of a reflection of the owners than a marketing blueprint.
“It’s not just a cannabis shop that you run in and out of quickly,” Hill says. “You feel like you can just hang out and chat with people or like it’s meeting place.”
The idea for Paper & Leaf came about when the state determined Bainbridge Island would receive one retail license through the lottery. Although they didn’t win the lottery spot, Hill and Kessler had an ideal location lined up and eventually came to an arrangement with the lottery-winning applicant, who is now a silent partner in the company.
“It’s a mom-and-pop operation right now,” Hill says. “I think this industry needs to be coddled and nurtured for the first decade before we go to the giant conglomerates that could possibly take this industry out of the hands of the mom and pops and turn it into something that nobody really wants.”