Already one of California’s biggest cannabis names, Wonderbrett is getting in the retail game with its recently opened flagship dispensary on North La Brea Avenue in Hollywood.
Wonderbrett took part in the initial wave of local social equity applicants in 2019. They were awarded a license in 2020, and proudly noted they are now among the first 19 social equity retail license recipients to open under the much-embattled program.
The store is co-owned by “Wonderbrett” founders – Brett Feldman and Cameron Damwijk – and Los Angeles nightlife entrepreneurs David Judaken and Mark Tung. With the dispensary now open less than a week, we talked with Feldman and Damwijk about the road to the successful A-list launch party last week.
Regardless of Wonderbrett’s other accolades, being a now-open social equity retailer in Los Angeles is a feather in the cap in its own right.
“The social equity program, it’s been chaotic. It’s hard to even know what was really happening all the time. It was just like you just keep submitting forms, and trying to get into your portal through the city, and then getting your forms signed off and just working with the process,” Feldman told L.A. Weekly. But he’d do it over again for sure.
Feldman claimed as slow and costly as the last few years have been, it’s all worth it.
“However, you’re spending money and you’re just kind of going on blind faith,” Feldman said of each new hurdle they were presented. “And we never had a store, so we don’t have some proven business model that says, ‘oh yeah and Wonderbrett retail is a great business model,’ and we’re still just rolling the dice. But we have a clear vision that we’re trying to get to. And we’re trying to deliver on that vision.”
Like all social equity operators in Los Angeles in the early goings, Wonderbrett sat on its new retail location for years paying $10,000 a month in rent. Feldman noted it was extremely expensive and it’s not like you just magically get the property. There were months of searching before it could start to drain the coffers.
“You hunt for those properties for months and months in advance before the window of opportunity even comes up, because you know they’re talking about social equity. They talked about it for a year,” Feldman said.
That conversation led to deep pockets drowning out others that were never going to bring in that kind of money to back their investments for the best locations. While Wonderbrett has never envisioned themselves as a big-money operation as their prices reflect, they did have the scale needed and partner David Judaken’s background in real estate to pull off the effort.
“He’s been an amazing asset to our organization because of his savvy in the real estate space and he has the ability to negotiate contracts and deal with places in the right fashion. … Without his skill set, you know, it would have just been much harder for us. Not that we wouldn’t have got it done, but I gotta give props to our partner David Judaken,” Feldman said.
Judaken also helped them scale up to their current operation that features 36 flowering rooms with 36 lights in each. Then there are all the veg rooms, processing and cloning. Even the mother plant room is a giant operation at that scale.
“I used to know the number off the top of my head. It doesn’t even matter to me anymore, it’s just about staying on schedule,” Feldman said of the mammoth farm. “In this facility, we’re trying to run it where we’re trying to load four rooms a week. We are taking down four rooms a week, and we are trimming four rooms a week.”
Feldman said these expectations are so they always have the freshest quality product coming out consistently on a regular basis. While freshness is already the team’s motto, Feldman argued they’re well on their way to it being more of a guarantee.
We asked the pair how much refining the final vision for their downtown dispensary happened over the years waiting to open. They noted again that Judaken also proved key in this regard, but things have looked the same for a while.
“David Dakin and his design and architectural skills for building real estate are amazing,” Feldman said. “And he has great taste. We aligned our interests together in the sense of how we envisioned the store to look. How to feel for our brand and class, we wanted quality. We wanted a place that’s a destination that people would want to get off the plane when they flew in from anywhere in the world and be like I have to go to the one rec store because it’s that type of store.”
The vision everyone came together on includes hand-hewn oak beams, textured pattern herringbone wood floors, and A-frame skylights meant to complement a ceiling covered in hand-pounded Indian metal light fixtures with Edison bulbs. There is a dedicated LED screen-covered Instagram wall that doesn’t sound as classy as all that other stuff but is also cool.
Feldman emphasized the digital renderings they came up with two years ago are exactly what the store looks like right now.
Even with a cool-looking shop, one thing Wonderbrett had in its favor is they already exist in the eyes of consumers compared to many retailers that are going to be getting their foot in the door. It also has an extra layer of people who will see it as a destination to purchase a product they already know, and some other house-approved winners good enough to make the shelves.
We asked Feldman how helpful it was to already have the following as they attempt the new retail endeavor.
“I think it’s a blessing,” Feldman replied. “I mean, we’ve always wanted a store. We have wanted a store for over 15 years. My partner Cameron and I diligently turned over every rock trying to get into a dispensary at some point. And I think honestly the universe was just telling us we weren’t ready for it. And now this is the opportunity that actually really aligns up. Everything that we went through was only just a lead up for us to be prepared for it today.”
Feldman said if they had pulled the trigger sooner on retail during Wonderbrett’s rise they wouldn’t have had that great opportunity, timing and brand strength they have at this moment that will allow them to make the most of it.
“And now we have a flagship store that we can drive experiences,” Feldman said. “And that’s what we’re looking to do there, is to create an experience. A special unique shopping environment.”
Feldman took the lead on the chat because Damwijk was traveling in Michigan to help get the ball rolling. We asked Damwijk if he was generally hyped since a few California companies and their genetics are doing well in that market.
“We’re making waves out here and they don’t know about it yet but they’re about to real soon and we’re excited to be out here,” Damwijk replied. “We’ve got a lot of support with the group we’re working with. It’s looking to be a good grow.”
Speaking on the L.A. opening, Damwijk said the pair just couldn’t be prouder of the team they have and the work those individuals have done to get Wonderbrett to where things have been so popping since the second they opened their doors. Feldman emphasized that sentiment was directed at everyone, from the marketing team down to the doorman, and any staff they haven’t had a moment to thank themselves over the last few hectic days.