If you’re one of the millions of viewers who enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as one of your annual holiday rituals, I have a new game for you.
It’s called “Spot the Future of Cannabis.”
It may appear briefly in the background of an Al Roker scarf-and-fedora standup. Or over the shoulder of Hota Kotb and Savannah Guthrie. It’s a corner building painted sky blue: the new Cookies SF flagship store.
Yes, Cookies is about to photobomb America’s beloved Thanksgiving tradition. I say it’s about time.
Get Cookies NYC in the shot!
Cookies, for those joining us here for the first time, is the cannabis brand founded by the hip-hop artist Berner. Over the past ten years, Berner has grown his company from a tiny California start-up into one of the most respected brands in cannabis.
That growth was on display in Manhattan last month when overflow crowds jammed the corner of Sixth Avenue and 35th St., directly across the street from Macy’s on Herald Square—all for the opening of the first Cookies SF store in New York. (And it doesn’t even sell weed.) Here at Leafly we gave the opening plenty of coverage.
Although it’s an all-NYC, all-the-time store, this Cookies clothing boutique is legally known as Cookies SF. Because legal cannabis laws are so restrictive, some companies have to separate their licensed-cannabis-store operations from their brand-merchandise operations. So the clothing stores are technically known as Cookies SF. It’s all one family, with two separate entities. One touches the plant, the other doesn’t.
Believe the hype
I’ll confess: I was a little skeptical of the hype. But then I had a chance to check out the scene for myself.
During a trip to New York earlier this month, I took a day to wander into some of the many unlicensed “gifting shops” openly selling weed from storefronts. The gray market, as you may have heard, is thriving. I counted six unlicensed cannabis stores on a five-block stretch of Chelsea, including a pop-up weed truck parked along Sixth Avenue.
Scoping the gifting stores
Cannabis Culture, on 8th Ave., across the street from Madison Square Garden, impressed me with their pro setup, well-staffed store, and money-making location. Every train passenger entering Penn Station and every Knicks/Rangers/concert fan is only a few steps away from a little something-something on West 30th.
Meanwhile, the Breckenridge Hemp Company, at 6th Ave. and West 31st St., was confusing as hell. How are they selling “state-tested, Colorado-approved” weed in Manhattan? The Breckenridge budtender did show me some nice flower, though, kept in big gallon-size glass jars.
Cookies is miles ahead of everyone else
Most gifting stores reminded me of the old no-rules medical marijuana days in Washington State and Colorado—stores with minimal design and limited product staffed by extremely friendly budtenders. The prices were a little, um, updated, though. I don’t recall dispensaries back in the day selling single generic pre-rolls for $15.
Then I walked through the doors of the Cookies SF flagship store at Herald Square. It felt like traveling forward through time.
Though it sells no actual weed—Berner ain’t stupid, he’s looking to come in fully licensed—the Cookies SF store offers branded merch that embodies everything that successful weed brands are: Fun. Playful. Creative. Smart.
Cookies’ cool authenticity is on display in their store:
Offering an authentic cultural connection
Cookies, the family brand, isn’t merely selling weed. They’re offering consumers a lifestyle brand. Berner established his reputation in the hip-hop world, then combined that foundation with a mission to sell only the finest cannabis.
What sets Cookies apart is its proprietary hybrid strain: cultural authenticity crossed with brilliant graphic design. The company is rising out of a specific subculture and going mainstream while turning the extremely difficult trick of safeguarding its cultural respect. Few companies have managed to do this. Think of Vans, the shoe company born in California skate culture, or Patagonia in the outdoor adventure world.
That combination of cultural authenticity, respect, and smart design is on display at the Cookies SF Herald Square boutique. Check out these artistic callouts to New York City’s media institutions, below. An old man stickballing on the streets of Brooklyn. The “Cookies Day Parade” nod to the traditional Macy’s parade.
The next era in cannabis branding
The whole aesthetic is contained in the t-shirt, pictured below, which honors (from the top) New York Magazine, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the New York Post, done up in the city’s orange-blue Knicks/Mets color scheme, with a sly little Cookies-brand “C” slipped in there to let you know this company is ready to take its place among the Big Apple’s cultural institutions.
Respect to the designer—and to the people running Cookies, who have clearly built up an impressive network of in-house and contracted artists.
Shining in a national retail showcase
All of this is happening in a store that’s not hidden away in some far corner of Brooklyn. It’s shining in Manhattan’s Herald Square, a showcase of big-name retailers. Macy’s flagship store sits across the street. Nearby are brand-defining stores from Dr. Martens, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Sephora, Tissot, Levi’s, and Aeropostale.
I entered the store a skeptic. I exited a convert. Cookies SF is welcoming New Yorkers, and the millions of people who visit New York every year, to the future of cannabis in the best way possible. The future of cannabis is fun, playful, cool, smart. The future of cannabis is welcoming.
And on Thursday, if you keep your eyes peeled, you may catch a glimpse of that future as part of your Thanksgiving parade viewing experience. Maybe Al, Hota, and Savannah will step into the Cookies SF store and check it out for themselves. Go ahead. It’s legal.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the legal separation between Cookies and Cookies SF.