A Former Disney Imagineer Designed This Dispensary - Store Tour of Grass Monkey
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One look and you will see, Grass Monkey is unlike any cannabis dispensary on Earth.
Founded in 2013, Grass Monkey Cannabis Company is an ingenuitive medical cannabis cultivator out of Maine. The brand's flagship storefront is a bright dispensary-meets-art-gallery. The unique Portland-based shop opened its doors to Maine medical marijuana patients in November of 2019.
The 2,000-square-foot dispensary was a creative labor of love for the Grass Monkey team. “We believe in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, so when it came to create a dispensary experience unlike any other in our region, we turned to a design firm with the same level of passion and drive. From our custom graffiti mural to a life-sized banana statue, McBride’s talented designers and out-of-the-box style brought an unparalleled level of excitement to Grass Monkey,” says Kyle Noyes, Co-Owner and Head of Operations at Grass Monkey.
“That was the ultimate goal, make it stand out as one-of-a-kind,” says Ryan McBride, Creative Director of The McBride Company. “We wanted them to feel a sense of immersion, that they were entering a unique atmosphere that can’t be found elsewhere.”
Creative firm The McBride Company is one of the most revered in the country and the first major national design firm to carve out a niche and expertise in cannabis. They design large-scale destinations from hotels and casinos like Margaritaville, to immersive theme spaces for brands like Peanuts and Nickelodeon. Their portfolio that now includes dispensaries, consumption lounges, and other cannabis-centered spaces.
Johnnie Rush, Chief Business Innovation Officer, and a former Disney Imagineer, is one of the key design voices in the Grass Monkey space. "Our intent, much like we’ve done with all of our cannabis clients, is to kind of bring mainstream retail design practices into a new industry," says Rush. "Up until very recently, dispensaries were treated as a temporary space, the demand was so great it didn’t make any difference."
Once Maine's recreational regulations fully go through, which could be as soon as this Spring 2020, Grass Monkey will plan to be adult-use.
Continue in our slideshow to see a full tour of the space, plus gain insight from its designers.
Grass Monkey, 85 Western Ave, South Portland, ME 04106
Enter Grass Monkey
“One thing that we started to notice is that a lot of cannabis retail establishments look very similar," says McBride. "Across the industry, they are starting to elevate the space to distance themselves from the old headshop model. There are certain elements that you see over and over, green color themes, 'Apple store-esque' is one thing we hear a lot. We feel like that’s kinda been overplayed.”
The literal Grass Monkey welcomes you
"It’s not just for the uniqueness of the design, but the business case that applies to it is important," says Johnnie Rush. "This is a client that really wanted to differentiate themselves in the market. They felt the dispensaries that were out there were just not representative of their brand. How do we take that brand essence and combine it with the environment of the dispensary, to set them apart in the marketplace?"
"We didn’t want it just to be about going somewhere, waiting, purchasing, leaving. We wanted to give the guests a place to browse, to discover, to give them some Instagram-able moments, to give some talking points." - Ryan McBride, The McBride Company
Grass Monkey cannabis, up-close
Graffiti, but make it high-art
Art by Valentino Mikalef, the co-founder of the street art agency, Klughaus, literally crawls off the walls inside Grass Monkey dispensary.
"To take the idea of an art gallery immersive space and to create something very much in line with mainstream retail, with marketing collateral, with things that are iconic that people remember," says Rush. "We give consumers a choice: I can go to one place and buy product, or I can go to this incredible place that is going to change seasonally with artwork, to see something I have never seen before. To see product packaging that is inspired, collectible, and different every time I go in."
The banana statue is a fan favorite
A popular feature in the Grass Monkey dispensary is this six-foot banana sculpture.
"It’s a sculptural banana, a high gloss base, inspired by Jeff Koons, with a graffiti explosion to counterbalance the sleek feel," says McBride. The banana sculpture alongside street-art on "trick" canvas filling the walls that surround the retail space show, "how we are blending these two cultures into something that garners mass appeal.”
Valentino Mikalef pieces bleed off the walls
Cannabis smell testing jars
Grass Monkey is a vertically-integrated cannabis company now serving medical patients in the state of Maine with flower, edibles, and concentrates. Grass Monkey has its strains divided by their effects rather than the Indica-Sativa binary: Unwind, Energize, Relieve, and Sleep. Their brand orbits street-art and its common thread within the cannabis community.
"Our main objective was really to both create a welcoming atmosphere but also do it in a way that celebrates the spirit of cannabis," says McBride. "We have to be careful there. If you throw a rasta flag on the wall, you do it in a way that feels very stoner. Certainly, that would appeal to a narrow demo of people. But we need to appeal to everybody. How do we do that? How do we capture that essence and that culture in a way that elevates it? But doesn’t elevate it too far off the charts so it feels sterile. It’s a blank canvas that allows us creativity."