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.
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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."
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.
"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."
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.
"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."
"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.
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