“When you come into our shop, customers say the whole vibe is different. It feels more relaxed and more welcoming, versus coming up and talking to someone through a glass window.”
— Nicole Kennedy | Co Founder
In the ever-growing sea of cannabis retail, Green Hop stands out as Portland’s first hip-hop themed dispensary. With hip-hop music coming through the stereo as soon as you walk in, graffiti murals on the walls, and bud tenders who are just as enthusiastic to talk hip-hop as they are marijuana strains, Green Hop is making a name as one of the most distinctive dispensaries in the region.
“Other shops are just selling cannabis. It’s not inviting,” says co-founder Nicole Kennedy. “When you come into our shop, customers say the whole vibe is different. It feels more relaxed and more welcoming, versus coming up and talking to someone through a glass window.”
Located in Northeast Portland, Green Hop is the brainchild of Kennedy and local educator Karanja Crews. As hip-hop enthusiasts, Kennedy and Crews started the business, in part, to celebrate the integral role hip-hop played in the legalization of marijuana, most notably through artists like Snoop Dogg, Redman and Method Man, and Cypress Hill. “Hip hop really mainstreamed cannabis and cannabis use,” says Kennedy. “It became more of a lifestyle versus just a means to get high.”
Green Hop also seeks to promote education around cannabis culture. By featuring marijuana strains named after artists and songs, they encourage customers to ask about aspects like THC and CBD levels and specifics about harvesting.
To further promote education, Kennedy and Crews also created the Green Hop Academy, which is an internship program that teaches young people marketable skills in the cannabis industry. They are hosting events for 2018 that will include a bike ride, block party, and concert headlined by Dead Prez. The store’s grand opening, which was held on Tupac’s birthday June 16, featured appearances from Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
“When you have politicians coming in, it’s really helping to push forward the idea that cannabis use is normal, therapeutic, and can be a benefit in lieu of other harmful and damaging medications,” says Kennedy. “For them to come in, endorse our shop, and say that they support us and this small Black-owned business is huge.”
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the business for Kennedy and Crews is facilitating multi-generational discussions around hip-hop culture. Kennedy points to one regular customer in particular whose affinity for De La Soul inspired younger bud tenders to search their music on YouTube in the store. “It’s keeping the culture alive and showing how there are bridges between generations,” she says.
Creating these connections and building community is especially important to Kennedy and Crews, who both grew up down the block from where Green Hop is now located and experienced the gentrification of Portland’s Black community first hand. Through the success of their business, they hope to reclaim a piece of the neighborhood.
“I grew up down this street,” says Crews. “The fact that we experienced the gentrification and then for us to come back and create a business, that’s a story that needs to be told.”
Author: Bruce Poinsette
Photos: Intisar Abioto
Published: November 2018