Manhattan’s Gotham Cannabis Dispensary Goes for Luxury Vibe

Shopping for marijuana shouldn't feel seedy, says the angel investor who sparked the idea

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With only a handful of legal recreational weed stores open in New York City, there’s definitely room for an operation with a luxe but approachable feel. Gotham, a new cannabis dispensary that opened last week on East Third Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, seems to be angling for that niche with its minimalist design, selection of high-end home goods, and cannabis accessories in the front of the store, never mind a concierge-like experience.

The store, which was designed by Brooklyn-based interior designer Jennifer di Leonardi and her firm Cinema Vitae, features custom millwork made out of blond wood, including a check-in desk staffed by two enthusiastic employees who take down customers’ information when they walk in. The front of the store is where the “lifestyle” goods live, with tall, blond wooden shelves stocked with brightly colored pillows, pipes, vapes, backpacks, candles and clothes. Rounded gray display tables offer storage pouches, bags, books and journals, and there are a few racks of trendy clothes. The central feature of this area is a fake tree that spreads its branches up into the open ceiling, surrounded by a slatted bench. 

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“We designed the store to change the narrative of cannabis,” said Joanne Wilson, an angel investor and founder of Gotham. “You walk into the store, there’s a tree designed by artist Molly Lowe, inspired by the oldest tree in Manhattan in Washington Square Park. We wanted it to be somewhere where people felt comfortable coming in with family, friends, and feel like they’re in a good space. Where there’s alway something new and different to look at, be involved in, or purchase.” 

Moving into the store, there is a lavender display shelf with products infused with CBD, or cannabidiol, including candles, moisturizers and soaps. Finally, in the back is the main dispensary operation, where blond wood counters are topped by glass display cases filled with various strains of marijuana flower, packaged gummies, tinctures, and even THC- and CBD-infused seltzer drinks. 

Wilson owns the one-and-a-half-story, 2,800-square-foot space that the store occupies, which has given her more flexibility in how to design and use it. Upstairs in the mezzanine, she plans to throw parties for Bright Moments, an NFT gallery, where artists will promote their work. 

She said she hopes to open two more locations in Lower Manhattan, and plans to launch a delivery service soon. 

Wilson added that she started looking into opening a cannabis dispensary at the height of the pandemic, after feeling exhausted by the tech world.

“I was an early stage investor in startups,” she said. “I was an angel investor in women before anyone else was doing it. I’ve been extremely focused on Black and brown founders, women entrepreneurs. It’s been a long road, and I was really burned out. I was thinking about a store during COVID when everything was closing. My son thought I was ridiculous for doing it, but it’s been fun to be involved in something from the very beginning.”

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com