Higher Standards, the upscale smoke-shop concept with two standalone stores on the East Coast, opened the doors of its first West Coast standalone store late last month in the Malibu Village shopping center.
The 640-square-foot space is tucked between Teressa Foglia and Catch Surf — and just two doors down from Fred Segal. It might easily blend in with its retail neighbors thanks to the wooden-slat awning and minimalist, beach-adjacent vibe of the facade, expect for the candy-colored Volcano vaporizers catching sun in the front window, that is; the tables piled with Keith-Haring-art-adorned water pipes; Marley Natural walnut-wood herb trays and copies of Lizzie Post’s “Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties.”
Other high-end merchandise in the mix includes high-tech dry-herb vaporizers (including the Firefly 2+, and Crafty+, both of which retail north of $250), a colorful counter-top oil-infusing machine called the Levo ($350) that could easily be mistaken for a coffee maker, Otto the joint-rolling robot and an assortment of cannabis-themed gifts and home goods by brands such as Edie Parker (a boxy, pot-green acrylic clutch emblazoned with the word “weed”) and Jonathan Adler (smoldering-joint ash trays, striped stash jars).
The most unique items on offer are a range of vintage smoking accessories, most of which are from the 1950s through the 1970s. Showcased in a pair of glass display cases, they include a stainless steel desktop lighter shaped like a motor scooter, Tiffany & Co. trays (in silver or glass), a giant, silver-plated, peanut-shaped Leonard of Italy dish/stash box and an assortment of vintage ashtrays. (The standout of the last is a commemorative ashtray from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, complete with the five-ring logo.)
The elevated take on the old-school head shop — after all, those vaporizers in the window retail for $780 — was first launched in New York’s Chelsea Market in December 2017 by Greenlane, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based distributor of premium smoking accessories. A second bowed in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market in March of last year.
Real-estate investment firm Jamestown, which sold Chelsea Market to Google in 2018, owns both the Atlanta property and the Malibu Village shopping center. (Interestingly, adult-use recreational cannabis is not legal in either New York or Georgia.)
That helps explain how the shop came to be in this location specifically, but the retail concept itself has actually been testing the waters in Southern California for a while as temporary pop-up shops inside existing dispensaries, first at the Pottery in Mid-City and later at Cannary West in the Rancho Park neighborhood and Bud and Bloom in Santa Ana.
Eric Hammond, Greenlane’s vice president of retail, said those pop-ups have all proven so successful that they never actually popped down and are all still going strong. Unlike like those in-dispensary locations, though, cannabis can’t be purchased in the new Malibu boutique (though there is a deep bench of products on offer that contain CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis- and hemp-derived cousin of THC that’s popular in the health and wellness space).
“This is our first rec[reational] market so it’s going to be super exciting to see how the store performs,” Hammond said a few hours before the Malibu store officially opened its doors on Jan. 23. “We aren’t even open yet, and you can tell from the people who’ve come by that it’s a much more knowledgeable customer base [and] that they’ve seen a lot of these products.”
Hammond said that makes it all the more important that Higher Standards gets the merchandise mix right in its new neighborhood. “Cannabis has been legal here in some capacity for decades, so it’ll be ultra-important in this setting for us to be experts of the [retail] craft,” he said.
Higher Standards Malibu, 3826 Cross Creek Road, Malibu, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.