A Chic Chicago Dispensary Rises Above Stoner Stereotypes
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A Chic Chicago Dispensary Rises Above Stoner Stereotypes

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By Lucy Wang
In the village of Oak Park next to Chicago’s West Side, Seven Point fights the stigma surrounding cannabis usage with high-end design.

When Brad Zerman, founder and CEO of Seven Point, won a license to open a medical cannabis dispensary in Illinois, he knew from the get-go that he wanted a welcoming and sophisticated retail space antithetical to the stereotypical dispensary marked by intimidating armed guards and sterile surroundings.

The products are stored in natural wood boxes that live in a glass-walled, humidor-style display case.

The products are stored in natural wood boxes that live in a glass-walled, humidor-style display case.

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To bring his vision to life, he turned to the hospitality experts at Curioso, a local practice with a reputation for elegant, human-centered design.

"Our interest in working with the cannabis, or really any industry, stems from our strong belief that hospitality extends beyond hotels, restaurants, and bars," says Nina Grondin, cofounder of Curioso. "It really applies anywhere where humans reside. We loved the idea of taking on new design challenges, especially those presented by a new industry, delivered through the lens of one of the oldest industries in the world—hospitality."

Where most other dispensaries have an intimidating security guard, Seven Point greets customers with a cannabis concierge.

Where most other dispensaries have an intimidating security guard, Seven Point greets customers with a cannabis concierge.

Cannabis murals by local artist Jesse Hora from Make & Co. were added behind the cannabis humidor and transaction counters in what Grondin calls their "‘fine art’ approach to the natural science and beauty behind the cannabis plant."

Cannabis murals by local artist Jesse Hora from Make & Co. were added behind the cannabis humidor and transaction counters in what Grondin calls their "‘fine art’ approach to the natural science and beauty behind the cannabis plant."

But navigating the perceptions and laws surrounding cannabis dispensaries in Chicago—Illinois has some of the strictest regulations in the country—were only part of the challenge. Zerman had selected a 3,500-square-foot space in the heart of an old commercial building that not only lacked street presence, but also access to natural daylight.

Working together with their sister company La Tortilleria, Curioso also designed the entire brand concept for Seven Point. The name Seven Point relates to the seven points on a cannabis leaf.

Working together with their sister company La Tortilleria, Curioso also designed the entire brand concept for Seven Point. The name Seven Point relates to the seven points on a cannabis leaf.

Seven Point offers hundreds of products.

Seven Point offers hundreds of products.

"Customers would come in off the street and walk down a long and dark corridor to access the space—not exactly the best first impression," notes Grondin. "Once patients made it down the corridor, we wanted to surprise them and create an unexpected storefront. So, we designed an illuminated box and 10-foot tall signage in order to signal that this is not your run-of-the-mill dispensary."

To make the long corridor more inviting, polycarbonate walls were installed to brighten up the space while preserving a sense of privacy.

To make the long corridor more inviting, polycarbonate walls were installed to brighten up the space while preserving a sense of privacy.

Ten-foot-tall signage greets customers at the entrance.

Ten-foot-tall signage greets customers at the entrance.

Drawing inspiration from high-end retailers like Aesop, Le Labo, and Gentle Monster, Grondin and her team at Curioso sidestepped cannabis’ typical visual cues—from Rastafarian flags to the color green—to craft a welcoming space prioritizing approachability, transparency, and warmth. Seven Point stands apart from other dispensaries in its thoughtful design and warm-toned material palette, as well as with its guest experience.

The retail display units are by B+N Industries and a local millwork shop.

The retail display units are by B+N Industries and a local millwork shop.

As part of the brand’s focus on education, the majority of the back-of-house operations that are typically hidden away have been moved to front-of-house.

As part of the brand’s focus on education, the majority of the back-of-house operations that are typically hidden away have been moved to front-of-house.

"We wanted to create a space for people to connect with each other and not simply a space for a commercial transaction," Grondin explains. "Thus, instead of a security guard, we created a cannabis concierge with a low desk and wall-to-wall glass."

"We kept a simple material palette for this project so that the brand, the team, and the products could be the real stars," Grondin says.

"We kept a simple material palette for this project so that the brand, the team, and the products could be the real stars," Grondin says.

The space is defined by white oak, glass, polycarbonate walls and bronze accents.

The space is defined by white oak, glass, polycarbonate walls and bronze accents.

"State regulations around dispensary operations seemed to all focus on creating barriers between the customers and the product as well as the employees," says Grondin. The design adheres to the regulations, but works around restrictions to create more opportunities to interact, and to heighten accessibility.

All furnishings were sourced from local vendors.

All furnishings were sourced from local vendors.

The communal table was a custom piece by Icon Modern in Chicago.

The communal table was a custom piece by Icon Modern in Chicago.