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Monday, March 04, 2024

Popular chain dispensary opens on 13th Street

It’s third location to open in Florida and the first-ever in Gainesville

<p>Customers gather around the &quot;bud bar,&quot; a round table showcasing dozens of cannabis strains at Cookies on Saturday, July 1, 2023. </p>

Customers gather around the "bud bar," a round table showcasing dozens of cannabis strains at Cookies on Saturday, July 1, 2023. 

A line of about 50 cannabis lovers wrapped around the side of the new Cookies dispensary awaiting its grand opening, some of them even camping out overnight. 

The first-ever Cookies store in Gainesville, located at 626 NW 13th St., opened its doors July 1, becoming the third location in Florida. 

Adam King, 19, attended the grand opening and was the sixth person in line after waiting two hours, he said.

“I think it is pretty aesthetic, they put their most into decorations,” he said.

Tara Hayes, the 33-year-old marketing agency partner for Florida locations, said it was a full day of entertainment. Cookies staff partnered with local businesses and artists to contribute to the opening, she said.

“We have a bunch of local business partners,” Hayes said. “It feels cool to have them celebrate us, but then to be able to use our traffic to help support their businesses too.”

The first 50 patients received free limited-edition Cookies flavored coffee with house-made syrup, caramel and blue sprinkles from Coterie Market. There was a live DJ and a ticket giveaway to Vivid Music Hall for last Tuesday's It’s Murph show.

As a special offer, by spending $100, patients could purchase the famous hybrid strain named after NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton for only $25. 

The Gary Payton strain is known to give effects such as a strong, heavy body high.

UF decor fills the entire store, from school spirited orange and blue T-shirts to cannabis-themed Gator murals on the walls. 

Each Cookies store has its own clothing and accessories line, consisting of local reserves exclusively available in-store, Hayes said. The UF merch is not available online.

An array of strains were displayed on a table in locked containers attached to wires so customers could see and smell the quality of the cannabis.

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“What's exciting about the Gainesville location is it's our biggest opening day menu that's ever existed in Florida,” Hayes said. 

When the Miami location opened, the menu only had flower. 

“But now we have a full assortment of flour concentrates, vapes, edibles, RSO,” Hayes said. 

Cookies recently launched its newest Shirazi hybrid strain in February, which was for the first time, sold in a legal market, Booth said. 

Cookies was the first legal company to sell Shirazi. Before, Shirazi was a popular strain on the black market and was never sold by a legal marijuana company. 

A top-shelf grower known as “AK” is famous for his brand, SMKRS, and the quality of his different strains. 

He started researching how to grow after a football injury in high school; between 16 to 17 years old, he was reading books on growing and fell in love ever since. 

AK has grown for most of his life. 

“It'll be 23 years in November,” he said. 

Amelia Booth, the 40-year-old senior district manager of all Cookies in Florida, said the Shirazi strain is a big deal.

“AK is famous,” Booth said. “We currently have two of his strains, RS11 and Shirazi. Shirazi is amazing because it's never been sold in a legal market before, let alone in Florida.” 

AK is very passionate about growing and thinks his love makes his marijuana different from other cannabis companies, he said.

“The money comes second; our market dropped by 80% over the last six years,” AK said. “If you're still doing this, it's not because of the money. It's because you love it.” 

Christopher Poterek, the 33-year-old general manager of the Miami location, believes the company’s code of conduct is unmatched, he said.

Jonathan Ackermann, 33, attended Cookies soft opening before the grand opening, he said.

“It was awesome, great customer service, great product and a nice environment,” he said.

William Thomas Jr., 50, was excited to try the product and glad he doesn’t have to go on the streets now, he said.

“One of my friends was out in Las Vegas, he brought me some back, and it was really good,” Thomas Jr. said.

Contact Alexia at pazalexia@ufl.edu.

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