'Stay The Course' - Q&A With Griff Conti On Hemp, CBD Retail Success
"We wanted to activate the community on a very local level and bring everyone together at a time when many of us felt anxious, stressed, and even lonely," says store owner Griff Conti.
As more states begin to reopen, brick and mortar retailers are faced with new challenges in order to create an environment that shoppers are comfortable re-entering, and desire to be a part of.
With e-commerce sales of hemp and CBD products booming since the start of the pandemic, and in-store sales noticeably dropping off, drawing people back into traditional, brick and mortar hemp and CBD stores poses a big challenge and new questions. While each store has its own unique situation, at its core, the solution for driving foot traffic seems to be rooted in education and community.
Griff Conti, Owner of Franny’s Farmacy - Westport, is no stranger to the cannabis plant, nor is he a novice at understanding the power that education and community have in the cannabis industry. In 2018, Conti was named Recruiter of the Year by Bradsby Group, a nationally recognized, employee-owned, boutique recruiting firm based in Denver, where Conti developed and launched their cannabis division. It became the fastest-growing division of the company.
In 2019, Conti served as a delegate for the World Cannabis Congress in 2019, in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. He was joined by more than 600 of the world’s leading scientists, researchers, policymakers, and industry experts for an exclusive, education, and discovery conference. Now in 2020, Conti is on a mission to educate consumers about the life-changing potential of cannabis that has been wrongly stigmatized and misunderstood for the last generation through his latest endeavor – opening his own Franny’s Farmacy near his hometown in Westport, Connecticut.
We spoke with entrepreneur Griff Conti on how education, safety, and connection to community play a vital role in hemp-retail success.
What were some of the challenges that came with navigating a grand opening while following social distancing guidelines, rules, and regulations? How did you and your team overcome some of these challenges?
Griff Conti: Since Franny’s Farmacy was the first storefront ribbon cutting here in Westport, CT since March, new challenges and questions regarding logistics kept coming our way as we prepared for the grand opening event. On top of that, being one of the first hemp-wellness destinations in the local area meant all eyes were on us.
We felt that it was our responsibility to execute responsibly so that we could serve as the go-to hemp-wellness destination for the community, and role model how a local business should navigate these trying times.
The enthusiasm, excitement, and positivity of our entire staff made people aware that we were conscious of what was happening. And that, while we were embracing physical distancing, we knew how much connecting with others meant for the Westport community.
At the time of this interview, we are about two weeks out from our grand opening and we’ve experienced zero repercussions from opening during the pandemic. Shoppers are happy, feel safe, and know they are welcome any time they stop by. Remaining mindful of the community and that not everyone feels comfortable shopping in-store is key. We decided to extend the Franny’s Farmacy experience to outside the storefront with team members educating shoppers outside, live music in front of the store, hemp-infused eats from local businesses, outdoor seating, live art, and so much more to embrace social connections while maintaining safe, physical distancing at all times.
Due to the pandemic, how has the recent industry-wide spike in e-commerce sales impacted your outlook and strategy for traditional brick and mortar retail?
Now is not the best time to get into traditional brick and mortar retail, but brick and mortar gives us a huge advantage when it comes to strong community integration. First and foremost, Franny’s Farmacy is a destination. What we sell in-store is merely a by-product of the experience, education, and one-on-one personal attention each person receives when they visit.
Since day one, we wanted to activate the community on a very local level and bring everyone together at a time when many of us felt anxious, stressed, and even lonely. In our hearts and minds, the entire team at Franny’s Farmacy felt this was the right time and place to introduce a product to the community that could help heal all of us on so many levels.
With social distancing still in effect, how do you recommend retailers create an environment that feels safe and welcoming for both shoppers and staff?
Having a balance and being able to adapt to the trying times is key. Retailers need to pay close attention to ever-changing rules and regulations while taking full advantage of utilizing both indoor and outdoor space available to them. Here at Franny’s Farmacy - Westport, we encourage shoppers to walk around the store in a safe, organized fashion with social-distancing signage throughout the store.
Aside from proper wall-markings, plexiglass by the register, and hand sanitizer throughout the store, we’re constantly sanitizing surfaces and keeping our door open in order to create a contact-less in-store experience. We also offer private appointments and curbside pickup, and home-delivery for those who are hesitant about shopping in-store with others around.Griff Conti helping a customer Franny's Farmacy Westport, Connecticut
In terms of creating an environment that makes our staff feel safe, we’re all on the same page about consistently following health and safety protocols. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently. Some of us live with older relatives, while others may live with someone who is immunocompromised. We’re fully aware of that, and so we don’t judge anyone for how they feel about coming into the store.
What reaction did you receive from your local community during Franny’s Farmacy’s grand opening weekend? Were people excited to have a place they could go to and visit for all their hemp and CBD needs?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive.
The amount of support from local elected officials, new shoppers, repeat customers, stories from people who have experienced success with our products, these are all things that make everything we do worth it.
Since we’ve opened, shoppers have been excited to have a credible place to go to for all their seed-to-shelf hemp-and-health needs. Franny’s Farmacy – Westport represents a diverse that is able to connect with everyone, including pets.
You credit much of your early success in retail to an emphasis on education and community building. What exactly are you doing to bring awareness to the healing powers of the plant, and to draw people into your store?
Lots of retailers are abandoning ship, but for us, it’s always been about making sure our community receives the right knowledge and information about the cannabis plant and has safe access to quality product. This is why we kept pushing to open despite the challenges we faced.
We’ve collaborated and partnered with local media outlets, businesses, and other organizations to build camaraderie on a local level. We saw that people needed to have hope, something exciting to talk about, somewhere to go, and something they could feel like they’re a part of. We stayed the course, followed our intuition, and partnered with the right people that helped us execute and achieve our goal to educate the Westport community about cannabis and provide safe access to quality product.