Melrose Avenue is known as one of Los Angeles’s most famous streets, and for good reason. The bustling strip that cuts across LA provides its visitors with shops and institutions dedicated to an multitude of cultures, from comedy to fashion — and now, cannabis.
Recently joining the nearby boutiques and improv classes is Cookies Melrose, an offshoot of its sister store Cookies Maywood and one of Bay Area rapper Berner’s chain of retail cannabis shops located throughout California. The Melrose location opened in October 2018 and, unlike the clothing and accessory-based Cookies SF, it actually sells cannabis as opposed to only streetwear.
The store stands out on the street with its well-known light blue color and neon signs emblazoned with the friendly “Cookies” font — a sight that old-school Angelenos could never have dreamed of, given that dispensaries were not even permitted to display their names on storefronts during California’s medical marijuana-only era.
Today, however, the Cookies store boldly states its existence in the same manner as neighboring brands such as Nike or Urban Outfitters, and serves the same customers hailing from Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and several more adjacent neighborhoods.
“We’re on historic, iconic Melrose,” explains managing partner Daniel Dvorsky. “We’re in the cut.”
Walking into Cookies is a retail experience that’s both calming and exciting at the same time. The modern design, soothing colors and easily accessible store layout give customers a welcome feeling, even if they might feel a bit overwhelmed by the amazing selection of flowers, concentrates, edibles and accessories.
And just like their mainstream neighbors, Cookies Melrose offers products you just can’t find at your local department store.
“We sell whatever all the competition is selling, but what we do differently is sell exotic strains that are only particular to us,” says budtender Charles Casabar. “We started the game, nobody did this before us.”
Vartan Kalousdian, general manager of Cookies Melrose, says the store makes sure to always have renowned Cookies genetics strains for sale, alongside quality bud from other breeders.
“Whether it’s London Poundcake #75, Gelatti strains or Gello 42, those are the main staple strains that we always try to keep consistent in the store,” he says.
Make no mistake, the Cookies Fam genetics are what separates this shop from the average dispensary. While most dispensaries rely on independent growers for their stock, Cookies Melrose cultivates its own top-shelf strains in a state-of-the-art growing facility located at Maywood, their first LA County location.
“Some of our best strains are grown and cultivated in Cookies Maywood,” says Dvorsky. “It’s cured there, it’s trimmed there, and it goes from there to here in record time. So you think about freshness and quality, it’s kind of hard to beat that in the middle of the city.”
The Cookies crew proudly boasts excellent one-of-a-kind strains, but visitors can always pick up the one tried-and-true strain that launched their success: a variation of the popular Girl Scout Cookies hybrid that most people claim as the original.
“We got the classic Cookies. This is what started the game,” says Casabar. “There’s like a million dispensaries that say they have ‘Berner’s Cookies,’ but that’s like wearing fake Yeezys.”
Cookies Melrose has fully embraced the idea of recreational cannabis, as it resembles more of a standard retailer instead of a patients’ group or health collective. The store features separate sections dedicated to flowers, extracts, edibles and vape products, making for easier shopping. Almost all strains are priced similarly at around $60 per eighth of cannabis, and just like most retailers, the price does not include the 15 percent excise tax and 9.5 percent sales tax levied by the state of California. Medical patients with a county medical marijuana identification card are exempt from paying sales tax, however.
While that may be burdensome to customers paying cash, the store offers an ATM machine and accepts debit and credit cards. Online ordering is also available for those on the go.
The excitement is just beginning, as Cookies has future plans to launch its very own line of extracts featuring their famed genetics.
“Just be patient and you’re going to see some very unique and very limited edition products here,” Dvorsky says.
The experience at Cookies Melrose is one all cannabis aficionados should enjoy, as its fearless leader Berner has worked with weed just as long as, if not longer, than he’s been a hip-hop artist.
“I believe most artists become cannabis advocates, but Berner is the other way around,” says Dvorsky.“Cannabis has always been in his life and his career path.”
TELL US, have you visited a retail cannabis shop yet?
Originally published in Issue 37 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE