While the rate of cannabis store openings in Seattle is reminiscent of this headline in The Onion—“Starbucks to Open in Restroom of Existing Starbucks”—two fancy new SoDo shops illustrate that, unlike Starbucks, they’re each working to carve out a unique niche.
Alejandro Canto’s Diego Pellicer (2215 Fourth Ave., S; 206.624.0070, diego-pellicer-wa.com) which opened in October, features 3,400 square feet of space, decorated with Spanish tile, chandeliers and handmade cases displaying its wares, which recently included a $3,600 “cannegar” joint. Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox, a pot opponent turned legalization advocate, visited Seattle to launch the brand.
“We’re the ninth cannabis store in SoDo—you’re talking about a six-block radius!” says Canto, chuckling. “We want to focus on the daily user,” he says, “and to be the first cannabis company on the Nasdaq.” That daily-user vision may not mesh with his $3,600 joint, but call it a marketing ploy that worked. Although several SoDo cannabis merchants expressed doubt the joint would sell, it found a buyer on opening day. “I said, ‘Well, we’d like to have it on the shelf for a bit,’” Canto says, relating his conversation with the buyer. “He said, ‘That’s a connoisseur piece; 20 years from now that’s gonna be worth millions.’”
Nearby, Vela (1944 First Ave. S; 206.457.4359, velacommunity.com) in a space formerly occupied by nature photographer Art Wolfe, is so sleek and gleaming that national cannabis culture leader Snoop Dogg declared it “the Louis Vuitton of weed stores” during a visit last September.
It is luxe—although more like an Apple store than Louis Vuitton. “Sure, it’s fancy coffee,” says Erin Green, director of operations, drawing on that Starbucks analogy. “But whether you go in your workout clothes or your work clothes, you’re going to feel welcome.”
Vela is the first cannabis store in the state to have a grow operation (owned by Field Day) and a cannabis extraction and processing lab on site (plus a medical-cannabis area). Behind louvered glass, about 200 cannabis plants wave gaily in an artificial breeze, and in an adjoining cannabis concentrate lab, you can watch science types at work. On the wall, a brightly colored Vela Spectrum chart depicts cannabis varieties à la the Starbucks Coffee Finder. At the “hush” end of the spectrum, expect “body melt” sensations; at the other end, “ignite” purports to make consumers “alive, masterful, vivid, productive, ambitious and exhilarated.”
With these two shops joining 46 others in Seattle and sales exceeding $1.3 billion per year, what’s next for cannabis retail? Perhaps a tasting room?