After David Melnick and his business partners lost out on the first round of Missouri’s medical cannabis dispensary licenses in early 2020, the team still felt a certain calling. They had a vision for a brand that could thrive in the newly legalized landscape, so they began networking with those individuals and teams that did pick up a license. Perhaps there would be a chance to work together.
“We kept building relationships with groups in Missouri and beyond just to kind of bring this partnership model to the table,” Melnick said. “There are multi-state operators, and we want to be a multi-state partner. We help the people that have the dispensary licenses in the various communities where they operate to provide some level of branding and marketing and operational support to put them on a similar level as those big players out there.”
After reaching out to license winners, Melnick and his team began working with two entrepreneurs who had landed a retail stake in the St. Louis area—in nearby Florissant, to be precise. It was a new concept, this dispensary partnership model, but one that ultimately became attractive to the operations team on the ground. Feel State, Melnick's company, was a brand that was ready to hit the road and engage with the growing patient base in Missouri.
“There are so many hurdles to go through—both from the construction side and the regulatory side,” Melnick said. “We just want to be a resource and help get you to market.”
He added that it’s a collaborative relationship. And while each partner might look at the business differently, Melnick and his team are able to adapt to specific goals and provide a consistent backdrop for the retail side of things.
One of the major points that Melnick underscored as part of the Feel State brand is an education-first approach to patient interactions. Even outside the dispensary, there’s an element of outreach that Feel State has included in its plans: A certain stigma very much remains in play in Missouri and elsewhere, and brand ambassadors from a Feel State retail location can help explain to the broader neighborhood just what exactly medical cannabis involves.
From store to store, Melnick said he hopes to keep that message clear and consistent.
The St. Louis location opened in early June, then celebrated with a community event June 18. That’s another key to laying a good foundation with the local neighborhood: visibility and engagement.
“It was trying to help build awareness and say, ‘Hey, here's who we are. Here's what's going on. How can we make sure we're doing this the right way?’” Melnick said.
Next up for the brand: a second location in Kansas City, Mo., where Melnick and the team are honing the brand to fit the operations team’s particular visions for that community.
He added that he hopes to see the Feel State brand cross state lines. As more and more people consider getting into the cannabis space, particularly on the growing retail side, the franchise model might be a helpful option. The brand is growing, and Melnick said he hopes to see more entrepreneurs embracing this cohering vision.
“There are a lot of entrepreneurs that want to get into the industry and may not know where to start or have the resources of larger groups to do a full brand buildout or have the back-end level of support that some of these larger groups have,” he said. “[For us,] it’s ‘Let's work together. Let's figure out what works best for everyone based on the given situation.’ Cannabis is still very much an emerging market. There's a lot of fluidity to what's going on. What might be best today may not be best tomorrow. So, it's just having that that flexibility to really go out and be able to mold a business to the changing market conditions.”