By: Katie Anderson
November 17, 2017


Many dispensary operators don’t give a lot of thought to the interior design of their retail space when they decide to open for business. They think that as long as they have the product, the customers will come. In today’s marketplace, however, the look and feel of a dispensary is not only an important aspect to operating a business, it can make all the difference between a dispensary’s success or failure.

debby-goldsberryDebby Goldsberry, the Executor Director at Magnolia Wellness dispensary in Oakland and the Managing Director at the BC3 dispensary (coming soon to Berkeley) emphasizes the need for getting the interior design of a dispensary right by pointing to the struggles that some of the older businesses currently face as they attempt to hold onto their share of the market. During our interview, she explained what new dispensary owners, as well established business owners who are thinking of remodeling need to know before they start the design process.

How does having a great interior design help sales?

Dispensaries have to compete in an ever-growing marketplace against a lot of sophisticated competitors who are selling to more and more knowledgeable clients. To really stand out and retain customers, you need an atmosphere that is incredible. Debby states that people want to feel safe when they visit. A well-designed space will have easy egress and exits, clear signage, and sensible pathways through the displays. Showcasing products like jewelry, along with unique counters and cabinets help people to feel safe and comfortable in the space. This will make them want to return again and again.

What is the most important thing dispensary owners should know about interior design?

Customers do not like the pharmacy model. There is nothing that turns a consumer off faster than buttoned up environments or lab coats. Have fun with the look and feel of your space. Debby suggests getting creative with your interior design, so that you are a destination location that people can’t wait to see.

Think of your favorite boutique or bar over a pharmacy, but with a modern feel. The design element should include lots of wood features, stainless steel, and clear glass jewelry cases. Remember, customers like to purchase from warm, clean, and friendly places.

Who makes most of the purchases at a dispensary?

Interestingly, while women are the larger demographic of ownership, it’s actually the men that make up the larger portion of purchasers. When designing the retail space of a dispensary, this can play an important part in drawing repeat customers to your business. It’s a delicate balance though between tipping the scale to favor men customers, yet not dissuading women customers from entering a store.

While some long-established dispensaries still go with the “man cave” feel that may work to attract the 20-something male demographic, this type of design will not appeal to newer types of customers, such as women or older demographic groups like the Baby Boomers. Instead, operators should go for a design that is visually pleasing and universally attractive to all.

What are some interior design tips that dispensary owners should know?

Think of your dispensary as if it were a high-end jewelry shop. Although the product is kept secured behind the sales counter, it is still important to showcase it on the floor as well. Each product needs featuring on the sales floor in a way that allows customers to learn about them, so that they can request the product they want at the sales counter.

Clean, well lit displays with educational materials nearby are essential. The goal of every dispensary is to allow the client to learn as much as possible about each item on the floor and this needs to happen prior to the customer getting to the point of purchase.

What are the benefits of hiring a professional interior designer over DIY?

Interior Design professionals can work with dispensary owners to help complete comprehensive designs that suit the dispensary’s mission, vision, and values, all of which are designed for ease of work-flow and for the satisfaction of clients. Design mistakes are costly, and can turn off customers, who might never return again after just one bad experience. Debby relates to one of her own personal experiences as a cautionary tale when considering the DIY route.

“Once, at Berkeley Patients Group, the first dispensary I founded and managed, our marketing director asked if he could surprise us with an overnight remodel. He had picked out various new features to add to the sales floor, including a new color for the walls. Imagine our surprise when we arrived in the morning to walls painted solid black. We opened two hours later, and the staff had to quickly refocus the morning, and spend it covering up depressing walls.” 

How and where should someone new to the business (or an established business) who wants a makeover look for an interior designer?

Referrals from friends and associates are often the best way to find a designer. Dispensary owners can also perform online research to find a designer in their area, such as Katie Anderson Interior Design Consultants. Be sure to find a firm that has the knowledge to create a retail experience that will appeal to all kinds of people, while still maintaining a general aesthetic that a dispensary owner is sure to love. It’s also a good idea to work with consultants who are state certified (CID in Califonia) and are members of the ASID.

Whether you’re a new business owner or have an established dispensary that is in need of a makeover, we can help. Call our team at 415-722-9124 or email our office now for more information.