Berner stood under his name in robin-egg blue at a newly branded Little Rock medical cannabis dispensary April 15, his crisp, pressed shirt giving the impression of a relaxed corporate retailer, not the streetwise San Francisco hip-hop and weed mogul he has been for 15 years.
Still, Berner was a walking advertisement for his brand, Cookies, a big-name marijuana strain and the brand Berner gave to his Haight Street clothing and lifestyle store.
“Cookies” is tattooed in cursive on the bottom edge of his right hand, and when Berner isn’t wearing a gold-plated marijuana leaf around his neck, he’s typically sporting a trademark curliequed “C” encrusted with gems. A smaller Cookies pendant in solid gold is available online for $5,999.
“We’re bringing a taste of California to Arkansas,” said Berner, born Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr., who was the main attraction as hundreds crowded a grand opening at Berner’s by Good Day Farm in west Little Rock. “It’s a real milestone to be operating in the South. I never thought I would see it happen.”
Of course Chenal is a growing area of Little Rock, not a suburb as described in a Cookies company news release. But the retail collaboration at 11600 Chenal Parkway will be the first in Arkansas to offer Cookies’ “unique cultivars and one-of-a-kind apparel,” it said.
“The last time I was in Little Rock, I was on a tour with Snoop and we had a blast,” Berner told Arkansas Business, speaking over the thump of a live DJ and a din of Cookies customers grabbing complimentary burgers and chips from the Purple Cow’s table in the parking lot.
The spacious lot, it turns out, was a selling point for the new location. Good Day’s old dispensary at 900 S. Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock had only about 10 parking spots, according to Ryan Herget, the dispensary manager.
Herget is the Little Rock entrepreneur who developed the food delivery app Chef Squad before selling it to DoorDash in 2017. He’s now with Good Day Farm Retail management; a Pine Bluff cultivation center, Good Day Farm Arkansas LLC, is also affiliated.
“The Rodney Parham store was popular but just too small,” Herget said. “So having this amazing building in this great part of town — with multiple more parking spots — it just allows us to offer a better experience.”
The dispensary, which changed ownership last month (see below), is far roomier at 4,043 SF. Ironic or not, the previous tenant was a Lifeway Christian Store.
Berner, who lists swimming an hour a day as a key to success, revels in his history as a former cannabis club operator and developer of the “Girl Scout Cookies” strain with the cultivator Jai, also known as Jigga. Related Cookies brands include Gary Payton, Cereal Milk, The Fly, Georgia Pie, Laughing Gas and Peach Cobbler. Along with marijuana and cannabis products, the shops also sell Berner’s clothing and skateboards.
“Everyone here is devoted to giving people a good journey,” Berner said. “This is the way that California medical cannabis was when I started: more personal interaction. We’re glad to be able to bring that to Arkansas with an excellent partner, Good Day Farm.”
The cannabis dispensary has a new ownership group approved last month by the state, and a capital infusion last year set the stage for the move. Dispensary licensee and Little Rock lawyer Alex T. Gray was among the previous owners and new investors who raised $6.2 million in the 2021 securities offering. Some of the proceeds went to pay off the dispensary license, which was bought in November 2020 from Natural State Wellness Dispensary for an undisclosed price. Natural State was licensed in January 2019 and operated on Rodney Parham as Harvest House of Cannabis and Little Rock House of Cannabis.