Chicago-based cannabis company Cresco Labs unveiled a new dispensary and retail cannabis shop concept on Monday. Called Sunnyside, the concept emphasizes health and wellness and aims to create an accessible, immersive retail environment that pushes Cresco along on its mission of creating a nationally-recognizable cannabis brand.

“Cresco focused on the brand side of the business first and then focused on the retail side. Having a national store like Sunnyside that can represent our brand the way we feel it should be represented to elevate the retail experience in the cannabis industry you create this winning strategy and really what we are working on executing,” Joe Caltabiano, President of Cresco Labs told Cheddar.

Cresco’s Sunnyside dispensaries will be light and airy with natural wood tones and sunny accents. Located in the highly trafficked parts of cities, “at Main and Main” near shops like Sephora, Whole Foods, or the Apple store, Sunnyside stores aim to break away from transactional retail and encourage shoppers to linger and learn in a comfortable and approachable environment.

The first Sunnyside dispensary will open in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November, after which all new openings will reflect the new concept. Eventually, Cresco Labs will retrofit all 56 of its existing dispensaries across 11 markets to reflect the Sunnyside brand.

“Retail is certainly evolving as time goes on, and experiential retail is critically important,” Caltabiano said. “We welcome people coming to get educated, to have an experiential retail experience, get comfortable with the subject matter... and then making a transaction that you feel good about.”

Products will be divided up by both by form and by function ⁠— vape products, for example, will be grouped together and separated into categories based on effect. Cresco brands, like Cresco, Reserve, Remedi, and Mindy’s, will make up roughly 40 percent of the store’s offerings, whereas the other 60 percent will be sourced both from fellow multistate operators, and from local craft cannabis producers.

Sunnyside’s launch comes just in time for Cresco’s home state of Illinois to kick off recreational cannabis sales January 1. As an existing medical cannabis cultivator and seller in the state, Cresco already has a foot in the door for adult-use cannabis. Caltabiano said he expects the company’s five stores to double, per state law, once the company receives approval for its new licenses.

It’s an enviable position. Unlike in California, cannabis licenses are limited in Illinois and by 2023 the market is expected to eclipse more established markets, like those in Colorado and Nevada, according to cannabis market research firm Brightfield Group. Fellow multistate cannabis operators have paid big bucks to shore up access to the Illinois adult-use market. Just two weeks ago, Curaleaf agreed to acquire Chicago-based Grassroots for $875 million, following in the footsteps of Harvest Health & Recreation and MedMen, which both announced similarly substantial deals for Chicago-area companies.

But Catalbiano said Illinois is far from the company’s only focus. Cresco’s sights are set firmly westward.

“California is an incredibly important market to the cannabis industry,” Catalbiano said. “If you can penetrate that market in a meaningful way, it shows that you truly do have a powerful brand.”

The company’s April announcement that it would acquire vertically-integrated, California-based cannabis company Origin House is Cresco’s answer to the California question. But that $823 million acquisition, like MedMen’s proposed PharmaCann transaction, has come under scrutiny by the Department of Justice over antitrust concerns. Cresco CEO Charlie Bachtell said in a June statement, “We are confident that we will be able to submit all requested documentation to the Department of Justice as soon as possible and continue toward closing of the transaction.”

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