Former Urban Outfitters exec is helping bring Michigan's new cannabis industry to life at Skymint

Oct 9, 2020 at 4:20 pm
click to enlarge Summer Ransom-Cleveland brought nearly 20 years of experience from Urban Outfitters to Michigan's Skymint cannabis company. - Courtesy of Skymint
Courtesy of Skymint
Summer Ransom-Cleveland brought nearly 20 years of experience from Urban Outfitters to Michigan's Skymint cannabis company.

During a recent evening at cannabis company Skymint's Hazel Park store, there's a line of young people out the door. A budtender walks us through the store, wearing a denim jacket and crop top with a navel piercing, while indie music plays softly over speakers. Inside, the sales floor is chic yet playful, with a neon sign that says, "Wish you were here high" and blonde wood display cases filled with marijuana flower, concentrates, and other items. Over on one wall is a letter board with a menu of the day's available strains, not unlike what you might see at a stylish brewery with a variety of beers on tap. (Taking the theme further, a display case in the back offers THC-infused gummies in beer flavors, a collaboration with Short's Brewing Company.)

To design its stores, which recently opened to the public by appointment, Skymint tapped Summer Ransom-Cleveland, a Michigander who previously served as a top executive at hipster fashion retailer Urban Outfitters, where she was the company's visual director of North America.

Ransom-Cleveland grew up outside of Flint, and shortly after graduating from college got a job at Urban Outfitters' East Lansing store, where she started as a merchandiser and worked her way up the ladder. "When I started with them, I opened their 34th store," Ransom-Cleveland says. "And by the time I left in late 2017, I had just finished the 201st store."

Ransom-Cleveland says her departure from Urban Outfitters was "very bittersweet." "But you know, I'm in my 40s now," she says. "I started with them in my 20s, and you do start to age out of fast fashion. There came a point in time where I just wasn't really fulfilled selling sweaters to 14-year-old girls, you know?"

A recruiter reached out on behalf of Skymint, who first hired her in 2018 as a consultant for the design of its new stores. Though Michigan had not yet legalized recreational marijuana use, the company knew it was likely around the corner, and Ransom-Cleveland says she designed the stores with a recreational customer in mind, with a focus on new users.

"I obviously had used cannabis — I mean, my name is Summer," Ransom-Cleveland says with a laugh. "I grew up with very hippie parents. So I had been around it quite a bit and in college and things like that, but I had never really been to a dispensary before."

Ransom-Cleveland took trips out west, to the recreational cannabis markets in Washington, Colorado, and California, for inspiration.

"At first, I was intimidated," she says. "You kind of feel like you're not cool enough, or you don't know enough. And that was one of the things that really stood out to me — like, I would actually spend a lot of time in here trying to learn, but my issue was in every shop, almost every product was behind the cash registers. So I couldn't really do any kind of self-education. You were kind of relying on the budtenders, and they were also busy and also behind the cash register. You didn't feel like you could really browse."

Ransom-Cleveland says she designed the Skymint stores so customers could "spend as much time as they want, with a sense of discovery and learning, and make it comfortable and beautiful for them."

click to enlarge Former Urban Outfitters exec is helping bring Michigan's new cannabis industry to life at Skymint
Courtesy of Skymint

Ransom-Cleveland describes the vibe of Skymint as warm and inviting, "modern minimalist, with a little bit of a Scandinavian feel to it." Michigan's Marijuana Regulatory Agency rules dictate that all THC-containing products must be behind a glass case, so Ransom-Cleveland had to work within those parameters. To that end, there are signs that offer more information in layman's terms; for example, a card accompanying a strain made in collaboration with DNA Genetics says it will induce euphoria and creativity in users, with a flavor profile that has notes of fruit. There are also iPads where customers can scroll through the store's inventory and learn more.

The store also offers a pick-up counter, so customers can order online and retrieve it without the sales floor experience. But Ransom-Cleveland says that cannabis consumers tend to come back more frequently than fast fashion consumers, who might come in once a month or so, and wants to create a dynamic environment that warrants revisiting.

"When you do go shopping, you don't want to look at the same stuff every time, even if it's your neighborhood store that you always go in," she says. "We reject the 'set and forget' mentality. Every time someone walks into our stores, they should see newness either in product or merchandising."

A number of assorted lifestyle products round out the offerings. "It's similar to Urban in that way — you could walk in, and see men's, women's, and housewares. Here, you can get THC, CBD, T-shirts, bongs — whatever your heart desires," she says. "That's kind of where I gained my love of lifestyle merchandising, and telling a product's story, by pairing things together that maybe you wouldn't normally pair together. I definitely saw room for that in cannabis retail."

Skymint Hazel Park is located at 20940 John R Rd., Hazel Park; 313-379-5369;
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