GREAT BARRINGTON — Adam Lippes wants people to look at marijuana in a new way.
And what better place to do it than in a storefront at a reimagined church.
Lippes and his partner, Alexander Farnsworth,are planning to set up their shop,"Highminded," at the former United Methodist Church on Main Street, better known as the "flying church." The shop will specialize in strains of cannabis associated with treating pain, insomnia and anxiety.
"Everyone has an idea of what a retail shop associated with cannabis looks like," Lippes said. "I want to turn that upside down."
Highminded is the brainchild of Lippes, a luxury fashion designer who owns a home in Monterey, and Farnsworth, founder of social media consulting firm Studio AF Inc. Both are in New York City.
Theirs is the fourth potential cannabis retail operation proposed for Great Barrington. All are now moving through the rigorous town approval and state licensing process. The company plans to hold its state-required community outreach meeting next month, Farnsworth noted. And it has a tentative host agreement with the town that will include the required $10,000 annual donation to a local nonprofit — in this case, Railroad Street Youth Project — and will give the organization an additional 1 percent of annual net sales.
While the other three shops are proposed for the heart of downtown, Highminded would be tucked into one of several retail spaces on the ground floor of Paul Joffe's redeveloped church, in what Farnsworth calls a "more discreet location" up the road.
"Between two toy stores [on Main Street] is not a great idea," he said in a phone interview. "Or near the candy store."
Farnsworth said he and Lippes hope to open in the fall, but that there were plenty of hurdles to conspire against that — including the completion of construction, and the state's backup of license applications.
Joffe, who will lease the upper floor of the church for use as a yet-unknown 80-seat restaurant, told The Eagle the church "should be substantially complete in the fall." Despite construction stops and starts, Joffe said he's worrying less about progress, but that "people see it and have all kinds of thoughts and questions."
The church will also contain two apartments, and a gazebo out front that Joffe has said might be perfect as a coffee shop.
But Highminded will be something very new, even to weed culture, legal or not — and particularly in the Berkshires.
"There won't be bongs found in this space," Farnsworth said of a place where a tie-dye shirt would be an unlikely find, either, since the clothing and home goods will be designed by Lippes company, Adam Lippes Studio.
But despite his partner's expensive fashion designs, Highminded won't be easily pegged in the "upscale" category.
"It's more of a curated experience," Farnsworth said, noting plans to sell things like Japanese lighters, Moroccan pipes, and antique silver cigarette cases. "We are world travelers ... I've seen interesting paraphernalia and pipes and lifestyle pieces."
Farnsworth also said the store would have an education component, given the long history of marijuana's reputation as a something less culturally acceptable than alcohol, for instance.
"Cannabis might be safer," he said.
He might be right: According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88,000 annual deaths are linked to alcohol. And marijuana deaths? Zero.
While he said Highminded could not make any medical claims about its products, he hoped that they "might replace pills or alcohol with something locally sourced."
Farnsworth said he had to keep mum on those sources for now, but that he and Lippes might themselves eventually apply for a cultivation license and do their own growing.
But Farnsworth said the company is serious about safety and "diversion," which means keeping the products out of underage hands.
And they have someone with industry experience coming on board to help with all of this. Farnsworth's brother, Brayden, is moving here from Portland, Ore., to oversee Highminded's compliance and product development. He's worked for a cannabis company before, has a degree in biochemistry, and will manage a store that will likely employ around 12 locals.
Farnsworth said he and Lippes spend as much time as possible in the Berkshires. He said that like Aspen, Colo., he thinks the town will adjust well to the arrival of legal pot, which one town official recently called a "new and risky business."
"Aspen is an example of a town with a thriving local community and a thriving tourist economy — they've done a great job."
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.