Shopping center owners left with empty storefronts after the pandemic-induced retail exodus are finding unlikely customers to fill the gaping holes in their malls: pot dispensaries.
“It’s not 22-year-olds buying a blunt and sitting stoned on the curb,” said Bill Schrader, owner of the Alamo, Texas-based retail real estate company Austin Group. “When you go into dispensaries you’ll be shocked. The store is a cross between an Apple store and a Nordstrom.”
Now, where an empty Sprint store once stood at the Union Landing shopping center in Union City, California, frosted glass windows conceal a sophisticated marble-tiled airy shop, the city’s first cannabis shopping center store, run by the Salinas, California-based chain retailer Grupo Flor.
Customers are greeted by a concierge to answer questions, sign in and place an order through an iPad. The orders are assembled out of sight and packaged in a bag that looks like it came from Tiffany’s. The store itself resembles a high-end department store with glass counters, high ceilings and a security guard.
“This is not a dispensary, in my opinion,” said Schrader, who leased out the space. “It is retail.”
Cities and towns responsible for cannabis licenses typically confine marijuana stores, or dispensaries, to low-traffic industrial areas far from protected spaces like churches, schools or community centers. But since states started legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and CBD became federally legalized in 2018, weed has crept into retail’s mainstream. Neiman Marcus sells $155 CBD oils, Barneys New York offers $1,100 hand-blown glass bongs and $1,400 weed grinders. Seventh Sense, a CBD skin care company, has stores in malls nationwide owned by Simon Property Group, the country’s biggest mall owner.
As other states move toward legalizing marijuana and federal lawmakers consider a bill to decriminalize weed, pot in retail is poised to become a mainstay, said Stephanie Cegielski, vice president