Consumers and industry insiders were thrilled this fall to see the groundbreaking Cookies brand make its first inroads to New York. In case you missed the news, here's an inside look at the grand opening of the Big Apple's coolest new retail destination.
By Steve Bloom
Rapper Berner and the globally-renowned Cookies, through their merchandise brand CookiesSF, opened their latest store on October 30, 2022 in the heart of Manhattan’s Herald Square shopping district, right across from Macy’s. This is the first flagship retail location that Cookies has launched in New York.
What Is Cookies And CookiesSF?
A line wrapped around the block, awaiting the blue-ribbon cutting at high noon. The store at 958 6th Avenue stocks clothing and CBD/hemp products, but none with THC. "This will NOT be a dispensary selling any THC products until we legally can," the company notes.
“This is a huge move for CookiesSF and solidifies us as one of the most recognized streetwear brands in the world," Cookies co-founder Berner said in a press release. "This location is iconic for so many reasons. We plan on doing some incredible things. We’ve hired some really cool employees and plan on bringing big vibes to the Big Apple."
CookiesSF started as a single shop in San Francisco in 2011, five years before cannabis was legalized in California, where Berner (né Gilbert Milam Jr.) is from. One of the fastest-growing multi-state operators in cannabis, Cookies now has more than 50 stores in 10 legal states. Major advancements in this growth have been made in just the past two years. In 2021, the company opened its first East Coast dispensaries through a partnership with TerrAscend in New Jersey; later that year, it achieved a milestone with the very first Cookies consumption lounge in the United States, located in Coalinga, California and partnered with Evidence, a brand founded by the Dalton family and reggae icon Damian Marley. This summer, Cookies entered the Florida market - said to be the fastest-growing state for medical cannabis - with its inaugural dispensary in Miami.
The brand is also known for offering customers over 150 proprietary cannabis varieties and product lines. These encompass everything from flower and vapes to CBD and medicinal mushrooms, with new items debuting regularly. However, Cookies is not yet publicly traded.
Cookies Founder Berner Looks Toward Cannabis Legalization
In a recent cover story in Forbes, Berner commented: "Legalization is just getting started... It's going to play out like alcohol played out. There's only going to be a few players... This is survival of the fittest."
Berner is the fourth wealthiest hip-hop performer, according to Zack O'Malley Greenburg at Substack. Greenburg worked at Forbes and has long tallied wealth in hip-hop. Berner follows Jay-Z ($1.5 billion), Sean Diddy ($1 billion) and Ye ($500 million) with $410 million.
Greenburg summarizes: "The Bay Area rapper’s Cookies cannabis empire sells 70 strains of weed and 2,000 different marijuana-related products across its 48 stores in seven countries and 20 U.S. states. It’s also the foundation of Berner’s fortune, thanks to an unusual business structure that could one day allow him to buy out local partners and create a unified multibillion-dollar cannabis conglomerate. He’s managed to retain an estimated 30% stake in the company. With legalization coming to more and more states - and perhaps the entire U.S. eventually - he’s uniquely positioned."
“If it goes federal, and the market wants to see us with all these stores and production, then we’ll roll ‘em all up,” Greenburg says Berner told him earlier this year. “So we’re achieving what these other companies are doing without having to put up our own capital.”
Is Berner Making Cookies America's Hottest Brand?
Cookies was listed by AdAge as one of America's Hottest Brands of 2021, a first for a cannabis brand. Berner also received an honorary award at the recent 2022 Clio Cannabis ceremony in Las Vegas. This special honor goes to an individual whose creative contributions have shaped popular culture, championed the benefits of cannabis and paved the way for better understanding of the marketplace.
"I’ve been put in a box my whole life and stereotyped because [of] what I do for a living, this felt good," Berner wrote on his Instagram account after accepting the award.
As Berner told Honeysuckle in our exclusive interview last year, his true blessing and favorite part about his work with Cookies is “bringing people together, putting our genetics all around the world, sharing some of the best weed in the world.” Now that he’s taken New York, where if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, it seems Berner is well on track to help us all live in a global Cookies jar. How delicious is that?
*A version of this article originally appeared on CelebStoner.com and is repurposed here with permission from CelebStoner and Steve Bloom.
This article was published in Honeysuckle's milestone 15th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!
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Featured image: The opening of Cookies NYC (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture