When Alcove opened its doors in NYC’s Lower East Side, partners (and married couple) Allie Pisarro-Grant and Alex Smith presented an oasis of high-design accessories for an industry in flux. They stocked their store with carefully selected vessels, tinctures and tools for use with cannabis. And ultimately, a destination was born where conversations around the benefits of the whole hemp plant—long a taboo subject—are encouraged.
“People are so excited to be in a space to talk openly about their cannabis use,” Smith shares with us. “They’re eager to learn new ways to use cannabis and CBD—and the education happens naturally as part of our conversations in the store.” All of this makes their brick-and-mortar shop meaningful. In turn, their online store isn’t a dark web dungeon, it’s an extension of their in-store values.
To understand these values, one must look further into what they’ve created in NYC—and what it means. First, through research, they knew the time was right. “We were struggling to find smoking accessories that appealed to us and also matched the other objects we had at home,” Smith continues. As he and Pisarro-Grant mulled over and discussed their idea of launching a cannabis design store, they were met with excitement and encouragement from family and friends.
“We’d seen other stores pop up in Canada and the West Coast—all the legal states. They were doing such interesting stuff. We knew there needed to be a place that we could go in our own city,” Pisarro-Grant adds, noting that legalization may be close in New York state. Pairing her background in art with Smith’s cannabis expertise, they sought out space and brand design that struck a middle ground between contemporary and classic heady goods.
As for stock, they began with what they’d already discovered for personal use and then traced the steps from maker to maker. Along the way, they embraced the work of many local NYC producers, and even more from across the US (from Kansas City to California), rounding out their offerings with beautiful international wares. From glass bongs to ceramic pipes and wooden grinders, all the materials are premium and the compositions elegant.
Meticulous merchandizing creates a sophisticated and respectful environment, but there’s also an undeniably playful spirit inside. Their lime green vending machine embodies this. Pisarro-Grant and Smith drove it up from North Carolina, where it was refurbished by a friend of theirs, the owner of the company Art-o-mat. Art lovers may be familiar with this type of machine: there used to be one in the basement of the old Whitney Museum that dispensed little pieces of art. At Alcove, it’s dedicated to their CBD stock. “This puts it behind glass, but in an interactive way—not behind a counter,” Smith explains. To use it, one buys a token from the staff and then drops it into the machine. It’s very satisfying.
With CBD everywhere, one may wonder about the value of its placement in a store that’s already embracing the importance of cannabis legalization. Pisarro-Grant says that she’s been exploring CBD personally. “I do think it has value,” she explains. “What we’re finding, and the reason we’ve done such a focused selection here, is that people really want to know where it’s coming from and who is making it. They want to get specific about what it is.” It’s this intelligent approach that infuses everything they do.
“We are building on destination customers,” Pisarro-Grant continues, “but what we’re finding is a lot of walk-ins who tell us they can’t wait to come back.” Many visitors now come through word of mouth, and some seek out the “hempcrete” display wall Smith built in the back of the store. It’s fireproof, waterproof and has a negative carbon footprint. It draws inspiration from a trip he took to New Mexico—and simply looks beautiful.
The same can be said for the just-launched site. Pisarro-Grant designed it and uses black-and-white images for individual products. They’re intended to draw attention to the form of the objects and emphasize their design. A quick browse surprises and delights. It’s an important extension of their work in-store and will only grow more so.
Alcove ships within the US. Purchasing laws, and intended use, are left to customer discretion.
Images courtesy of Alcove