When consumers hear the words “craft cannabis,” they might assume it’s unaffordable or overpriced.
Ron Throgmartin, the chief executive officer of Diego Pellicer Worldwide, wants to bust that myth.
When Diego Pellicer, a cannabis retailer with stores in Washington state and Colorado, was founded in 2013 in Seattle, its goal was to offer local consumers “craft or connoisseur cannabis,” Throgmartin said.
But, he said, “our concept has a place in all communities because one of our fundamental beliefs is our stores and our experience is not exclusive to the wealthy.”
Here, Throgmartin talks with Marijuana Business Magazine about how craft cannabis purveyors can design stores and stock products that appeal to everyone.
How do you define craft cannabis, and what does craft cannabis mean in the retail segment?
I love this industry because we’re all in the process of defining these words. There are the obvious things: carefully manicured products trimmed by hand, using the best possible curing process and grown organically with no pesticides, and a real focus on potency, flavor and trichome appeal. All of those things are what create craft or connoisseur cannabis.
As it relates to retail, you have to be very careful to not present yourself as too high-end or too premium because consumers might construe that as too expensive.
That’s not what we are or what we define as craft. We work hard to deliver the very best product, whether it’s grown by us or by other cultivators. If a product meets the quality standards of craft cannabis, it’ll be in our craft cannabis lineup.
We seek out the best quality product of all tiers of marijuana. We are not exclusively serving the craft or connoisseur consumer.
Just because a customer’s budget is different from the craft cannabis consumer’s doesn’t mean they should not still expect the same customer experience and best available product.
How is a craft cannabis environment conveyed in design?
There’s something that ties our stores together. But we did not want to create one design and put that store in every market, because every market is different, and to think they’re not is a mistake.
We want to design a store that is consistent with the community it’s in. We want it to feel personalized. Every store is going to deliver a premium, unparalleled customer service experience, and we’re going to try to deliver craft cannabis and the best available cannabis in all tiers. We want consumers to feel like the store is for them. We don’t want them to walk in the front door and think, “I don’t think I belong here.”
Here’s an example: We’ll be opening a second store in Denver—two stores in the same city. And the new store will have a very different feel from our flagship store. There will be elements that tie the two together, but the new shop will be customized to fit the community it’s in.
What qualities are important in products that come from third-party vendors?
We only work with credible vendors—vendors who have good reputations, who are ethical, who have integrity. They have to be fully transparent about their processes and their products, and they have to pass our quality-control standards.
For example, we want to understand how (organic practices are) used in cultivation and how the product has been manicured, handled, cured and trimmed. The most important thing is potency, flavor and trichome appeal. At the end of the day, those are the three most critical considerations when it comes to what we’re putting on our shelves.
With infused products, it comes down to our buyers’ relationships with vendors. It’s difficult to determine the quality of an extracted product without trying it. Consistency is probably the most critical component when we’re shopping for any kind of extracted product. That’s why integrity, transparency and reputation is more heavily weighted. The last thing you want to bring into your store is extracted product that comes from an extractor that has product that has tested hot or has had product that is inconsistent.
How do you select the ‘right’ location for a Diego Pellicer store?
The best location often is not available to the cannabis industry today. That will change over time, but we are involved in all site selections where our brand is associated. And the first thing we do is look at what’s best available and dismiss what’s not.
The community and demographics are important, but they’re not barriers. If we find an excellent best-available location, the demographics very seldom will become a barrier. We believe our concept will work in any socioeconomic area. There’s no reason our retail experience cannot be offered to all consumers.
Is vertical integration important to delivering craft cannabis?
Vertical integration is critical for any company in any industry, but it is not essential for the success of Diego Pellicer. We are heavily tilted to retail and our brand. If you’re heavily vertically integrated, it can be too tempting to force your stores to put the product you produced on the shelves—even if it doesn’t meet your standards. Our philosophy is: We want to be vertically integrated to the extent we have some protection on pricing, availability and quality, but not to the extent it impedes our promise to the consumer that we’re going to put the best available product on the shelf.
What advice would you share with someone who wants to grow or sell craft cannabis in the legal market?
If you are going to venture into craft cannabis, I would encourage you to visit Colorado. The retailers and cultivators in our industry—in Denver and Colorado—are some of the best in the world. They’ll take you through and help you understand what they’re doing and why. The worst mistake you can make is to say to yourself and your consumers, “We’re going to offer craft marijuana,” and then fumble through that process and what craft marijuana is. So, don’t go down that path without consulting someone who has achieved a level of success in cultivation and retail to really understand what craft cannabis entails. In all honestly, we’d be happy to talk to anyone who shared the same enthusiasm we do for improving the industry and the customer experience.