New Vansterdam bridges cultural gap between cannabis and beer
Something Vancouver has never quite seen before happened last weekend at Esther Short Park.
While several thousand people headed downtown Friday, Saturday and Sunday to try dozens of microbrews at the annual Vancouver Brewfest, one of Washington’s largest marijuana retailers, New Vansterdam, greeted each of them in an effort to break down the stigma surrounding recreational cannabis. In several ways, the store’s marketing team held a huge presence at the event, which was a first for a Vancouver pot shop.
Approaching the entryway, it was impossible to miss the bold New Vansterdam signs promoting the connection between cannabis and beer. Hops and marijuana are cousins, after all. They belong to the same small family of flowering plants, known as cannabaceae.
Inside the gates, each visitor was handed a pint glass bearing two logos: one for Brewfest and another for New Vansterdam. And just past the entrance, the store set up a booth where anyone could stop by and learn about recommended beer and cannabis pairings.
For a bullseye on a dartboard at New Vansterdam’s booth, customers could win free T-shirts. The team also gave out New Vansterdam-themed stickers and sunglasses.
The store’s impact at the event didn’t stop there, though. New Vansterdam hired a limo driver to chauffeur a bunch of customers all the way across the city to the shop so they could buy some pot before heading back to Brewfest.
It was a clever approach to seizing on a popular non-pot event to boost marijuana sales. Under state law, marijuana can only be sold in pot shops.
But more importantly, store spokesman Shon-Lueiss Harris said, Brewfest presented a chance for New Vansterdam to win over the hearts and minds of those who haven’t warmed up to legal marijuana.
“You could definitely tell they were more comfortable talking about it,” Harris said. “And that’s the key. They don’t have to approve. They don’t have to go smoke, but when they can empathize with it, that’s when we’ve done our job.”
And New Vansterdam doesn’t plan to stop there. In the coming months, you’ll begin seeing the store’s marketing reps at more and more local events in both Clark County and Oregon, as the company prepares to expand on both sides of the Columbia River.
“One event is a bit like Vancouver Brewfest, where you’re talking to a population that may not typically think of marijuana, but we’re not trying to sell them something,” Harris said. “We’re really trying to help educate them and be a part of the community. The more we can meet people we never would normally, that’s what we want to do.”
New Vansterdam had been reaching out to the Downtown Vancouver Association for several months, planning to make an appearance at the annual beer festival. The organization helped connect the store with Brewfest’s organizer, Cody Gray, who was very open to the idea.
A lot of feedback from the crowd came from brewers, Harris said. Many of them were interested in making connections with the marijuana industry, but they didn’t know how to begin.
“We had a ton of people come in saying it was their first time and that they had never seen the store before,” he said. “Being there next to all those local brewers was fantastic. Those are the guys that actually bring more character to Vancouver.”
– Justin Runquist