Some brands just seem to have an innate sense for how to make it to the top. They’re able to attract the old guard with a classic panache while at the same time appealing to hipsters who seek a bougie vibe.
Canadian dispensary chain Burb passes the test, blending trendy retail with onsite spaces where artists can create and collaborate and industry members can network and build brands. From consumption lounges and live-music nights to a bud bar and a new location that will go down in history as the first on-campus dispensary in Canada, Burb’s many ventures unite communities and walk the line between the OG “heady” weed world and the new consumer.
Launched in 2017, Burb’s first goal was to keep alive the connection between the arts and cannabis. After witnessing what he called “one too many” corporate operations move in with limited industry knowledge, Burb’s founding team of hardcore connoisseurs felt it was their duty to build a brand that revolved around legacy and community.
“It all centers around art and creation,” said John Kaye, co-founder, chief executive officer, and creative director. “I’m a musician, and our whole team really loves music. We look at the breeders and cultivators as artists too. That’s our mission: to support artists and creatives and keep that lifestyle component tied in, which is the essence of cannabis. It’s always been a cultural connector.”
The team insisted creative collaboration meld with Burb’s storefront layouts, so when they hired interior designer Jennifer Dunn to bring the concept to structural life, they gave her a mood board that featured neutral, muted, and inviting colors to help people feel comfortable, welcome, and at home.
“We also worked in plants and natural elements for that homey feel, and our stores have bud bars,” Kaye said. “At any given time, consumers can check out between twenty and forty strains on display with smell jars.”
The decision was an investment, especially post-COVID, when dispensaries largely dispensed with interactive and touchable product displays. However, the Burb team believes the feature lends a crucial detail to the customer experience.
“We’re one of the last stores in the [Canadian] industry to keep actual flower on display,” Kaye said. “Our stores are very experiential, [and customers are] accompanied by employees who are great at providing recommendations and offering quality service. We’re also continuously curating the best menu we possibly can. We’re trying to bring the best of British Columbia’s market to consumers through our shelves.”
Every Burb store works in the same design elements for brand consistency, including the new Vancouver location, home to Burb’s largest and most creative effort yet: a four-story building with a dispensary on the first floor and a consumption lounge on the second, followed by a recording studio and residential quarters on the top two floors.
The property, which acts as the brand’s flagship, is a hotspot for interaction. Every Friday night, the location hosts an industry networking event, while Saturdays are reserved for live music shows that are open to the public.
“The space is a really big connector for people,” Kaye said. “On Fridays, industry members come in, bring their work, bring some flower, and the whole point is to share. A lot of people have started brands from there or met people they started working with. Tons of relationships have been built, and it’s really cool to see.”
Kaye likens Burb’s vibe to the classic California skater: laid back, unique, authentic, and well-versed in contemporary culture. And like skate culture, Burb isn’t for just one type of consumer. Although it does tend to resonate most with Gen Z and millennials, the brand’s sleek, minimal, and effortlessly hip interiors attract and welcome adults of all ages.
“The Burb demographic tends to be the music, skate, surf, snowboarding, heady communities,” Kaye said. “But we appeal to tons of different subsets of culture, from people who love to smoke and explore new products to someone who’s had no experience with the plant at all.”
Burb’s team knew what they were doing when they went for neutral minimalism. The aesthetic is muted enough to be both stylishly current and unassuming. As a result, consumers new to the plant feel comfortable exploring a brand-new world, but the chain’s core demographic—connoisseurs between the ages of nineteen and thirty-five—isn’t turned off either.
Burb stores’ success is illustrated by the company’s market expansion. The team recently opened a seventh store on Vancouver Island and an eighth location on campus at the University of British Columbia.
“This is the world’s first weed store to be located on a major university’s campus, so we’re very excited,” Kaye said. “It’s been almost three years of sitting on this location while working with the city and the university to explain and justify our presence.”
The reasoning that finally resonated with administrators? The presence of a licensed dispensary on campus gives students a safer option than dealing with the illicit dealers from whom they already buy.
“In addition to that, we’re continuing to expand our presence in California and getting ready to launch in Alberta,” Kaye said. “We’re also talking to groups in Hawaii and on the East Coast [of the United States] for some retail potential.
“We just want to continue building and growing,” he continued. “We’re one of the few Canadian brands that’s gotten international awareness, and we want to keep bringing our flavor to different markets, supporting local communities, and staying true to our foundational elements of cannabis, creativity, and connection.”