How Keystone Canna Remedies Factored COVID-19 Into Its Newest Store Design
Courtesy of Keystone Canna Remedies

How Keystone Canna Remedies Factored COVID-19 Into Its Newest Store Design

The company opened its third Pennsylvania dispensary, which has been optimized for social distancing and other health protocols, in Stroudsburg on June 18.

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July 1, 2020

Opening three dispensaries in two and a half years is a feat for any family-owned business in a highly regulated medical cannabis market like Pennsylvania, let alone amidst a global pandemic.

Keystone Canna Remedies’ third dispensary in the state—located in Stroudsburg—certainly didn’t go as planned. Originally set to open in Q1 of 2020, the halting of construction due to statewide COVID-19 shutdowns pushed the open date back.

However, there was an advantage to the postponement: the extra time allowed for a reconfiguring of the store’s layout and operating procedures to make for a smoother social-distanced opening, which officially took place on June 18.

“We wanted to just get the facility prepared for whatever future the post-pandemic world looks like,” Keystone Canna Remedies Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer Victor Guadagnino told Cannabis Dispensary.

 

 

© Keystone Canna Remedies

 

 

While the company’s first two locations in Bethlehem and Allentown were adjusting to new protocols to minimize COVID-19 risk throughout their medical cannabis supply chain in real-time, the Keystone Canna Remedies team, along with architect Ryan Welty of RGW Architecture, were doing things like adjusting the patient flow areas in the building’s lobby and dispensing area.

The state’s Department of Health recently prohibited open-access areas in dispensaries, which Keystone Canna Remedies planned to use as community education hubs (meaning anyone from the public, not just patients and caregivers, would be permitted to enter these areas). While disappointed they couldn’t have an open-access area in the new dispensary, Guadagnino said the recent limited- and restricted-access-only regulations in the facility’s design blueprint helped make social distancing easier to implement.

For example, “We re-thought how to space patients and how to corral patients to certain parts of the counter so we could maximize the amount of [point-of-sale stations] while still socially distancing,” Guadagnino said, adding that in the new location, “We only let four to five patients into the lobby and four to five patients into the dispensing floor.” The dispensary also has two separate doorways to the dispensing area, which helps with traffic flow: one side for entering, one side for exiting. Video cameras which are monitored by front-desk employees help ensure everyone is following guidelines.

During their time in the lobby and dispensing areas, patients are separated by stickers on the ground to mark where they should be standing while they go through the process of the transaction. The stickers are round and textured “so they’re part of the floor,” Guadagnino said, and are printed with illustrated shoeprints, a note to “Practice Social Distancing,” as well as the Keystone Canna Remedies logo. 

Another design change: While the first two Keystone Canna Remedies dispensaries had intentionally been designed without tempered glass, the team decided to install them in the Stroudsburg facility as additional protective barriers between patients and patient care specialists.

“[With] dispensaries in other states, even just two years ago but really probably more on the timeline of five years ago, six years ago—there was a sentiment of people are doing something wrong,” Guadagnino said. “We designed our counters as low, opening, inviting to encourage engagement with the patient and also for them to feel like they’re in a professional environment. … Something we actively avoided we had to implement because of COVID, which I think is kind of funny.”

But even making seemingly small changes like this presented unexpected challenges. “One thing that was interesting was the sound design when you put the glass up,” Guadagnino said. “When your space was not initially considered for it, we did have some issues with hearing and just communication which we’re actually working on now.”

The counters’ material also changed from concrete to quartz for a number of reasons, including quartz’s anti-microbial and non-porous properties that make it easier to clean.

Keystone Canna Remedies plans to install the tempered glass and quartz countertops in all its locations over the coming months.

Patient education is important for the Keystone Canna Remedies mission—so private consultation rooms were designed to accommodate for 6 feet of distance between patient and patient care specialist. However, doors remain open for now for better airflow, Guadagnino said, and masks are still required.

 

 

© Keystone Canna Remedies

The design aesthetic of the Stroudsburg location closely mimics the Bethlehem and Allentown facilities for branding cohesion purposes, like warm and neutral colors in the décor, exposed brick, and light-colored wood paneling. But there are a few noticeable changes, such as fewer rugs and carpets, as well as less furniture, which was consciously done for sanitation reasons.  

Outside, parking spots are designated for curbside pickup, which helps for operational flow. Guadagnino anticipates Keystone Canna Remedies will be offering in-store as well as curbside service offerings for the foreseeable future. 

Opening this location was important for the Stroudsburg community, Guadagnino said, because it’s an underserved area. Residents must drive about 30 miles to the Bethlehem store, which has seen much higher volumes during the pandemic—a stress for both operations and employees. “It was an imperative for us to open the location to [divide the] volume out from Bethlehem so we could spread out that patient base and more effectively social distance,” he added.

The new location has opened with limited hours (open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays). The Stroudsburg location has 10 new employees, along with some crossover employees from the Bethlehem dispensary. Patients have appreciated seeing the familiar faces, Guadagnino said, adding that he hopes to add another 10 to 15 employees within the coming months.

“We obviously have learned a lot in the last two and a half years, but we opened three stores in less than two and a half years, and we compete with large industry members. So, to be hit with COVID at the last home stretch of opening locations and having to implement these strategies have been stressful,” Guadagnino said. “But I have to say I’m very proud of the team we have here that we’ve been able to do it successfully with nobody getting sick. And we’ve kept our staff and patient base healthy.”