Ponce City Market opened in 2014 in a building Sears constructed in 1925. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography)
Photo: Jenni Girtman
Photo: Jenni Girtman

Pot City Market? High-end smoke shop coming to Atlanta Beltline

A new high-end retailer will soon join the mix at Atlanta’s Ponce City Market — emphasis on the word “high.”

“Higher Standards” is a smoke shop, but it’s much fancier than that. Think everything but the cannabis in a boutique setting, according to the store’s founders.

“It’s a contemporary take on a traditional shop,” Eric Hammond, the company’s general manager, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re trying to elevate the experience.”

No, you didn’t wake up in California or Colorado. Marijuana is still outlawed in Georgia, except for an oil form approved for those with severe medical conditions. But everything that will be sold in “Higher Standards” is legal, including various smoking accessories like heavy-duty glass beakers, resin rags and butane torches.

Expected to open in mid-March, the Atlanta shop will be just the second “Higher Standards” store in the country. The first opened in 2017 in New York City’s famous Chelsea Market and is thriving, Hammond said. The fact that it’s opening in one of the hippest shopping centers in Atlanta — nestled among stores like J. Crew and West Elm — shows how mainstream marijuana has become.

Higher Standards, a boutique for smoking accessories, is scheduled to open mid-March at Atlanta's Ponce City Market. It's believed to be the first of its kind in Georgia.
Photo: Photo: Higher Standards

“Higher Standards” wants to change the shopping experience, Hammond said. The stereotypical smoker is no longer a scruffy, tie-dye wearing 20-something, he said. Consumers are now more mature and want a quality shopping experience.

“Now you have executives, professionals, parents, grandparents,” Hammond said. “They expect that type of service in all aspects of their lives.”

RELATED:Hemp farming bill passes Georgia House

ALSO:Everything you need to know about Ponce City Market

“Higher Standards” is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Georgia. But there are various other smoke shops throughout the state, a sign that attitudes are changing, according to Tom McCain, executive director of Georgia’s NORML chapter. The group seeks to legalize marijuana and offer education on its benefits.

“This is becoming more and more acceptable here in Georgia,” McCain said. “Our legislature is absolutely out of touch with its citizens.”

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll conducted last summer found that while there was widespread support for expanding the availability of medical marijuana in Georgia, views were still sharply split when it came to the recreational use of pot. In the poll, 50 percent of respondents supported legalization. That’s up from 46 percent the year before. The 2018 poll had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Opponents of legalizing marijuana argue that it could create public safety hazards and lead to increased usage.

Higher Standards, a boutique for smoking accessories, is scheduled to open mid-March at Atlanta's Ponce City Market. It's believed to be the first of its kind in Georgia.
Photo: Photo: Higher Standards

Smoking-related items will make up about 70 percent of “Higher Standards” inventory. But they also sell specialty gift items, artisan creations, home decor, skincare and vintage items from brands like Gucci, Hermes and designer Jonathan Adler.

“Everything we have is best in class for each type of category of product,” Hammond said.

Though two temporary “pop-up” locations have opened in Los Angeles, Atlanta was chosen as the site for “Higher Standards” brick-and-mortar second store because of the city’s booming social scene.

“As a thriving center of culture, music and art, Atlanta was a natural choice for ‘Higher Standards,’” Sasha Kadey, creative director and co-founder, said. “We wanted to introduce a sophisticated shopping experience that matched the sophistication of the consumers that have chosen to incorporate smoking or vaporizing as part of their lifestyle.”

Minors visiting the store must be accompanied by an adult 21 or over.

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