Cresco Labs has operations in 11 states, nine of which have retail operations. In Illinois alone, thanks to mergers and acquisitions, the company owns four different retail brands. Plus another in Pennsylvania. And another in Arizona. And one in Florida. Oh, and yet another in New York.
But beginning this fall, the company plans to “reconcept” all of its retail operations into a single brand with a consistent look and feel and, more importantly, a single, recognizable name: Sunnyside.
“You’ll know you’re in a Sunnyside store whether you’re in Philadelphia or a recreational market like Chicago (in 2020) or Vegas or wherever,” says Cresco Labs president and co-founder Joe Caltabiano.
The first Sunnyside store is set to open this fall in Philadelphia, and Caltabiano says Illinois, Cresco Labs’ home state, will be next with all of the company’s retail shops to eventually get the Sunnyside treatment.
According to Caltabiano, the idea is to be “more than a dispensary” with a “bright, welcoming aesthetic to help normalize and professionalize cannabis.”
He says the stores will have a “light, airy” design that is welcoming to all cannabis customers, from the hardcore cannabis connoisseur to those who have less experience. The stores will have high ceilings and an open-air environment to create a sunny feel, compared to the stereotypical drab dispensaries of an era prior to the recent rebirth of spreading legalization.
“You need a store that is very approachable, very welcoming, that allows each of those customers to come in and have their own journey at their own pace,” he says. “The hope is to have a place that welcomes all of those customer bases, from the most knowledgeable cannasseur all the way down to the beginner who was recommended to try it because it would take some aches and pains away or want to get rid of the glass of scotch at the end of the day to help unwind.”
Caltabiano says Cresco looked to brands like Sephora and Apple for inspiration in the design of the new Sunnyside storefronts, including light colors and a distinctly non-institutional feel.
“[Sephora] is a very approachable, inviting retailer with knowledgeable experts who can walk you through a vast array of brands, depending on what you need,” he says. “You can go in there with no knowledge of the products and you’re going to have an educational, experiential visit where you’re going to walk out happy with the product selection that you’ve made.”
And because of the learning curve about new products, new ways to consume and the potential effects of cannabis on various conditions, Caltabiano says a heavy education component is key to the new brand’s design.
“Think about the Genius Bar at the Apple Store,” he says, referencing the concierge-style tech support sections staffed with specially trained employees. “You’re not there to make a purchase, you’re there to learn something. But, oh, by the way, if you want to make a purchase — at your own pace — then you can go get in line and go through the actual retail experience.”