It feels like "For - Ev - Ver" that I have been trying to sit down and smoke with Chauncey Leopardi, AKA Michael "Squints" Palledorous in the 1993 cult classic The Sandlot. While we didn’t plan it that way, we ended up doing so just in time for the film’s 30th anniversary.
Chauncey Leopardi: From Squints And The Sandlot To Squintz Cannabis
I was excited to talk to Chauncey about his Squintz cannabis brand, his collaboration with premium cultivator team Foreign Genetics, and plans to open a first-of-its-kind brick-and-mortar "collab" retail storefront (slated for Mason and Roscoe in the Valley). One year ago, I’d smoked Squintz’s eponymous strain for the first time via mutual friends in Southern California. That was a Rainbow Chip (Sunset Sherbet X Mint Chocolate Chip) a cross gifted to him by Sean at Your Highness LA. I was an instant convert to his explorations in flower for the adult-use market.
Leopardi’s time in the game goes back decades. Fast forward to today, 22 years after he got his hands on his first doctor’s recommendation, and Leopardi is still relentlessly cultivating cannabis.
Squintz Cannabis And Foreign Genetics: A Match Made In Heaven
Foreign Genetics was founded in 2015 by cultivators Sean Costanza and Arrion Jafari, who teamed up with Chauncey in 2019. Fast forward a few years and Foreign Genetics is now a fully integrated cannabis company. Based in Los Angeles Foreign operates in multiple verticals including Cultivation, Distribution, Retail, and Manufacturing.
Chauncey and his partners have built Foreign Genetics operations from the ground up, but they also successfully launched the namesake Squintz brand. Since their first drop on the California rec market in March 2021, the Squintz brand has evolved, maintained relevance, and quickly came to exist as a cultural darling among connoisseurs in the space.
Chauncey Leopardi Celebrates The Sandlot's 30th Anniversary And The Squints Legacy
As a lifelong fan of the film and now the Squintz brand, I was relieved to learn that Chauncey looks back on the whole experience of "The Sandlot and being Squints" as an absolute blessing.
Surprisingly, Leopardi never intended to tie The Sandlot or Squintz’s namesake to his cannabis and lifestyle brand. At first glance, some may see the idea of interconnecting the two worlds as a potential schtick to drive sales, and this is most definitely not the case. In truth, Chauncey says was not interested in tarnishing something as culturally significant as The Sandlot or "Squints" mainly due to his reverence for the film and its impact on society. He was reluctant to screw around with something that has transcended time in such a unique and unforgettable way for so many people.
"I didn't think it was necessary to take something that could stand on its own and combine it with something to make it successful,” he tells me. “I didn't think it needed to be done; there were more ways."
Nostalgia is a universal emotion that transcends cultural and generational boundaries, and for a brand, it is undeniably worth its weight in gold. By tapping into memories of happy times, even unintentionally, experiences from the past, brands can create a sense of familiarity and comfort that can make their products or services more appealing and memorable.
Nostalgia can be a powerful tool to create a deep emotional connection with their audience and differentiate themselves from competitors—a potential magic bullet, fundamentally important in today's crowded cannabis market in California.
The ability of Chauncey and his partners to launch a successful and prominent brand under any name (famous or not) had already been proven. Still, you might as well give the people what they want.
An Interview With Chauncey Leopardi: Embracing The Sandlot, Squintz x Foreign Genetics, Flower-Art Integration, And More
In true Sandlot style, the Squintz namesake kept coming back organically despite efforts in different directions. Finally, embracing the namesake and integrating it into a cannabis and lifestyle brand. Perhaps proving once and for all that “legends never die.”
JAKE ROBINSON: Tell me about your vision for the new "collab" store. Who will be on the shelves?
CHAUNCEY LEOPARDI: Hopefully, we can buy from our friends. I know who's who; I have been to most people's grows so that I can buy from an informed perspective for industry smokers.
All the people I look up to in this industry I am lucky enough to call a friend, so the new shop is a very personal thing for me. I want to carry people I love and fuck with, who care about the plant, so right off the bat, you know what you're getting, and it is a real culture shop. Not like hippie culture but like authentic industry culture.
So you'll curate this place from a very personal perspective?
Yeah, I mean just like anything else. 100%. For instance, we have a store now, it is doing well, and growing. I would love to curate a crazy menu, but it's not in a place that works for that model. The location (Foreign Los Angeles) means the customer wants a bang for their buck. It is a complicated thing with the licenses, and we're not getting to put them in whatever prime location we want, so we got to roll with it. The new store will be in the Valley, and I would like to tailor it.
How does that differ from the scenario with the new store location?
The new store will be in the Valley (Mason and Roscoe), and I believe in the long term, this is a vehicle for the brands and product lines we create. I would love to know that people were coming directly to us to get our curation, the lines we were doing, and our offerings specifically.
Between the two brands, I feel we can hold a store and make it make sense retail-wise. Like the place to come get Foreign and Squintz products, collab products, and things that align with our network. Having all the homies on the shelf. If it's fire, I want to have it there for the people, and I want to give people the things that not everyone can carry.
At the end of the day, I am a cultivator, and I cultivate every day. If my brand is a curation and extension of my thoughts and habits and the things I like in the moments that I like them. We are a small craft brand of cultivators, and our flower represents us.
When you say "you're a cultivator," you mean you're in the grow and cultivating flower every day?
Every day, I am in the grow. Every day I make mixes in cultivation, unless I'm out of state. Every day. For years, years, years, and years (laughs).
California aside, how do you see yourself and the nationwide industry? Are you excited about the other states coming online? For instance, on 4/20 of last year in Washington Square Park…
I have never seen some shit like that. Do you know what I mean? I am from LA, been in the business forever; we've never done some shit like that. Hippie Hill is cool, but not like "Washington Square Park," bro! It was such an epic moment, and that's next level. Some crazy shit.
Earlier, you mentioned a bunch of great names, who have done so much for the normalization of the plant, but you're also doing your part in a big way to perpetuate a positive perception of the plant and industry at large.
One of my older homies is DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill and he always had this saying that ‘If you just do dope shit with dope people, then that’s the key to life.’ Yeah, if we can bring art together, or people with different backgrounds that are really dope and we look up to for whatever reason, we can bring cannabis and combine that and give it to the people, that’s art in itself. I definitely am motivated more and more every day, not only to develop a menu that shares a little joy, but adding some type of nostalgic art with it, that goes with it and can be something special. I want them to keep these Mylars.
You just mentioned joy through flower and art, which is evident in your drops like The Wendy and The Liz. No one is really doing stuff like that. How does that combination of elements reflect your relationship with the plant?
We’re all conduits, bro, not just in cannabis, but in life in general. Something speaks through us. I feel like the plant speaks to who she wants to be represented by, and she’ll speak to how she naturally wants to be represented… People spent their lives in prison for this. A lot of people trailblazed in NorCal and Humboldt, and did time for this, and now it’s an industry in itself. To pay homage to that, obviously she’s worked through the persecution to be all it could be. Cannabis is essential, right? Regardless of how taboo or dangerous it was, people kept coming back to it with a loving feeling. She’s here, and it’s just a humbling, beautiful thing to let her work through whatever she needs to.
A version of this article was originally published in Honeysuckle's 16th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!