Manhattan’s Gotham Strives To Be The Dover Street Market Of Cannabis Dispensaries

Manhattan’s latest cannabis dispensary looks more like the MoMA Design Store than a head shop—and that’s exactly what’s intended. 

Founded by angel investor and serial entrepreneur Joanne Wilson, who’s backed Parachute Home, Food52, Eater and more, Gotham, opened Wednesday as New York City’s fifth legal cannabis dispensary, is a cannabis and cultural concept store that goes well beyond standard dispensaries.

Wilson and Gotham chief creative director Billy Richards, a hospitality veteran and former director of the Boom Boom Room, want its East 3rd Street to be welcoming for both serious connoisseurs and the “canna-curious.” At Gotham, they can shop not only premium cannabis and CBD products, including flower, edibles, vaporizers, pre-rolls tinctures and accessories (think lucite trays designed to roll joints on), but also clothing, books, zines, personal care and home goods. 

Among the brands available are Head & Heal, Caan, Harney Brothers Cannabis, Ayrloom, Florist Farms,Yew Yew Puff, Edie Parker, Flowerhouse, House of Puff, Mater Soap, Everyday Oil, Bodha and D.S. & Durga. Gotham has partnered with edible specialist Rose Delights on a new flavor created in collaboration with David Zilber of Noma that’s exclusive to it. As required by law, cannabis products must be sold in the state they are grown in.

In addition, Gotham will sell handcrafted CBD offerings and accessories from its own line, Gotham Goods. Wilson divulges that line will expand to encompass a dozen products, including lotions, salves, luxury candles and pet products. Pricing for the range isn’t available yet. In New York State, there’s a 13% tax on retail sales of adult cannabis products.

Wilson’s resume spans retail, media, real estate and technology, but Gotham marks her first time playing in the weed market. However, she’s been imagining jumping into it with a retail concept since college. 

“I’ve always wanted to create a retail space that had a one-stop shop vibe,” she says. “You can shop in one area and then grab a bite to eat in another as well as have cool art and events happening all under one roof. When I started getting into the cannabis space, I thought, ‘Why haven’t they been able to create something like this?’ I have always been inspired by cool shops like Dover Street Market or Colette Paris. So, that’s how I look to those revolutionary stores as we began building Gotham.”

Gotham founder Joanne Wilson

Wilson turned to Cinema Vitae to create the two-floor, 2,800-square-foot retail destination-cum-gallery venue. The NYC multidisciplinary design studio has handled large projects for Club Monaco, Gucci, Sweetgreen and The Waldorf Astoria Paris. Gotham will bow with a NFT gallery exhibition in partnership with digital art gallery Bright Moments that will feature New York artists and a permanent installation by NYC-based multimedia artist Molly Lowe.

Opening a store in Manhattan is never cheap, and the dispensary element hikes the cost significantly. New York State’s website doesn’t share the price of obtaining a Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license, websites estimate the cost at anywhere from $200,000 to $1 million, including a $2,000 application fee. The license must be renewed every two years. While the illegal weed trade is thriving in NYC, experts are bullish on legal weed. Some project sales could reach $6 billion by 2030.

The CAURD program aims to promote social equity by prioritizing applicants that are either “justice-involved” entrepreneurs who have cannabis-related convictions or direct relatives of qualifying individuals or nonprofit organizations with a mission that can benefit from being involved in the cannabis industry. 

Gotham partnered with Strive, a national workforce development organization headquartered in NYC neighborhood East Harlem that provides employment services to people facing significant employment barriers. As Gotham’s partner, the nonprofit will receive a portion of proceeds to fund its programs.

In a statement, Wilson says, We have an unwavering commitment to social justice, which is why Strive was the perfect partner for us for our flagship store. Gotham is committed to creating systemic change through the power of jobs, education and opportunity for those that were formerly incarcerated for cannabis.”