Bodegas, diners, mini-marts, delis — even subway newsstands — have served as design influences for cannabis purveyor Superette, which touts itself as the “technicolor antithesis of sterile cannabis retail.” Creating an immersive and nostalgic experience for customers, each store features a different identity, most recently boasting a diner-meets-funhouse design at its newest location in the Glebe neighborhood of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Echoing the growing sentiment that stores should be more than just a place for transactions, Superette’s founders are betting on brick-and-mortar, with plans to continue expanding and opening several new stores in Toronto this summer. “In a brand-new industry with a general education gap and limited brand loyalty, the role stores can play is currently bigger than ever,” said Drummond Munro, Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Superette in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “I think like all retail industries, ecommerce will continue to play a bigger role, but for brands focused on experiences, community and one-to-one interactions, there will always be a big role for physical stores.”
The new dispensary is the second Ottawa outpost for the brand, which is known for its playful, retro aesthetic and artful curation of products. The 1,900-square-foot location pays homage to the retro-diner style of the original Wellington store, adding a splash of trippy surrealism and a nod to the natural world. The end experience is part diner, part fairground funhouse and part cannabis store.
“We try to take it beyond simply providing cannabis for those looking to purchase and actually create an experience and a product curation for shoppers who want to have fun in a space and discover something new,” Munro said of the store experience. “They could come in for cannabis and leave with a new candle or incense for their coffee table.”
Divided into distinct sections, customers enter the store through a retro-inspired, diner-meets-candy shop, completing their ID check in an old custom photo booth (one of the many reworked vintage pieces sourced by Superette’s in-house creative team). The design team took inspiration from the signature Superette red rose, inverting their traditional white tile/red grout color palette to create a red tiled diner that is an homage to 1950s Americana and a cheeky nod to capitalist consumerism with a contemporary twist.
The diner then gives way to the surprise, middle “dream” tunnel space, with photorealistic illustration seamlessly wrapping the curves of the tunnel’s ceiling with soft, glowing clouds. Further adding a Willy Wonka-esque vibe, three fairground-style funhouse mirrors distort reality as shoppers move through the tunnel, compressing their sense of height and space, shifting perspective and invoking childlike memories. As visitors exit the tunnel, they are released into the cannabis retail space, featuring high ceilings and classic Superette touches, including the trademark white tile and red grout, and a curated selection of gender-neutral clothing, products and accessories from cult brands like Sundae School (exclusive to Superette in Canada), Pure Beauty, Dope Girls and Yew Yew.
Designed to evolve and adapt based on the location of each store, no two Superettes are alike. Each space uniquely celebrates elements from local communities. For example, in the Glebe location, the beloved Superette “Munchie Phone” is a “Poutine Phone” that goes through local street food restaurant Banditos (order the secret menu item!) and Superette has designed exclusive merchandise for the store, including a vintage-inspired tourist T-shirt that celebrates the neighborhood.
Additional store highlights include:
- Custom shelving that showcases the quirky selection of kitsch, diner-inspired merchandise and props, including bongs that look like soda bottles, coffee mugs that are pipes, checkerboard-patterned rolling papers, burger grinders and reworked vintage pieces;
- The hidden door to the funhouse tunnel is disguised behind a refurbished, old-fashioned soda machine made bespoke in-house;
- An arcade-inspired claw machine wrapped in clouds affectionately named “Super Claw,” where customers can try to snag unexpected prizes ranging from gifts from local designers and artisans and Superette merchandise (think Superette Nikes and slippers) to rare paraphernalia and big-ticket surprises;
- The world’s largest cannabis menu — so large, in fact, that the manufacturer made Superette sign a liability waiver for the marquee; and
- The Superette Flower Wall, which takes the simple notion of picking a flower and translates it into a new sensory experience for smelling cannabis.
With many dispensaries having already adopted technology in-store, the team at Superette paid particular attention to how it integrated digital elements into the space. “We recognize the importance tech can play in enhancing a retail experience, but given the way our industry has adopted tech with every dispensary having 100+ iPads and digital screens to choose from, we have intentionally tried to keep the experience more tactile and analog,” Munro said. “Given the number of SKUs available, we did convert old cigarette vending machines into custom digital menus where you can scroll the menu or search beyond the light-box menus in-store.”
Photos by Alex Lysakowski