High Design

More hip than hippie, at the SeaWeed Co. in South Portland, good vibes meet high design

Words By Allison Paige
Photos By Michael D. Wilson

Architect & Builder:

Woodhull

As a child of the eighties, I took Nancy Reagan’s campaign to heart and Just Said No. In high school I refused both beer and bongs and called myself straight-edge, which sounded so much cooler than “nerdy.” But to quote The Byrds: I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. At the recently opened SeaWeed Co., one of Portland’s first retail recreational cannabis dispensaries, the team is happy to help, no matter if you’re an early adopter or a late bloomer.

White oak benches designed by MAAM and made by GKS Furniture Maker join chairs from Article in the sitting area.

White oak benches designed by MAAM and made by GKS Furniture Maker join chairs from Article in the sitting area.

Founded by homegrown entrepreneur Scott Howard (of Olivia’s Garden, Maine Rock Gym, and EVO Rock + Fitness), the SeaWeed Co. flagship store opened in South Portland in October 2020. Some patience was required. Although Mainers successfully voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, setbacks and vetoes delayed the process until last autumn. Scott is sanguine about the protracted timeline. “It was hurry up and wait. So, we had plenty of opportunities to really look at the design and think it through.”

The company aims to be an inclusive source of all things cannabinoid: flower, vapor, and edible. With an extraction lab and small cultivation, it also carries products from local growers and sells wholesale to caregivers and medical dispensaries. Scott hopes to provide an environment that elevates and demystifies the experience of procuring recreational marijuana, where first timers and avid aficionados alike can feel welcome.

The exterior of the 3,200-square-foot-building is a pleasing mix of organic and industrial, clad in locally sourced white cedar shiplap and a metal roof. But step inside and be blown away by what I can only call high design. No batik or black lights. No boomer head shop, this. SeaWeed Co.’s bright, airy minimalism conjures a Scandinavian dream boutique or a Californian wellness retreat. Pearlescent zellige tiles and custom millwork of blond ash look crisp and sunny, while plentiful plants and polished cement floors are right on trend. Scott envisioned an interior that was warm, open, and a far cry from the dusty, clandestine head shops of yesteryear. “Cannabis used to be hidden,” he says. “We wanted to give it its new look.”

Principal architect Caleb Johnson of Caleb Johnson Studio designed the store and affiliated Woodhull Construction manned the build. “Working with Scott was a pleasure,” says project manager Patrick Boothe. “He is an entrepreneur who sees the value in investing in good design, which helps reinforces the quality of the products he represents, whether it is SeaWeed or Olivia’s Garden.”

The shop abounds with elegant design, from the dramatic inverted-hip ceiling to an Italian terracotta tile screen.

The shop abounds with elegant design, from the dramatic inverted-hip ceiling to an Italian terracotta tile screen.

Milled ash block tables make handsome displays for artisanal wares and small-batch products. Recessed bulbs, pendants, and large windows ensure that the space is drenched with light.

Patrick notes, “The use of natural handcrafted materials in a modern approach, whether it be the wood ceiling, the ash cabinetry, the polished concrete floor softened with woven rugs, or the clay wall tile screens, all help bring a sense of warmth and approachability.”

The company’s illuminated mermaid logo casts a mellow lavender glow.

The company’s illuminated mermaid logo casts a mellow lavender glow.

MAAM of California helmed the interior design and created some truly mesmerizing details. A screen of Italian Celosia terra-cotta tiles makes a breezy geometric divider between the reception and retail space, while the sloping, stunning cedar-clad inverted-hip ceiling, executed by Woodhull Construction, aptly recalls the hull of a ship.

“Their concept was based around wellness destinations, specifically that of the Swedish archipelago. That coastline is very similar to Maine. So, the whole sense of being close to the ocean, a sense of sustainability, and all the natural materials in here give a calming feeling which makes people feel at ease,” explains Director of Business Development Kaspar Heinrici.

Patrick agrees: “There is a sense of calm and comfort at its chosen location, away from busy Running Hill Road. Once inside, the sense of feeling comfortable in a space is the result of a proper balance of light, natural materials, and good proportions.”

Scott points out an invisible but crucial detail, the acoustic design, which makes quiet conversation possible despite high ceilings and concrete floors. A rotating selection of artwork by local artists gives the space a gallery feel, while two seating areas with midcentury modern–style furnishings offer stylish spots to linger.

“Some people have described it like a spa for cannabis,” Kaspar remarks. Indeed, shopping at SeaWeed Co. is a relaxing, transportive experience, and that’s before even lighting up.

The business mode is apothecary style, with goods on display only, creating a curated look and a streamlined purchase. Friendly and knowledgeable “budtenders” are primed to explain the various offerings, make recommendations, and log customer orders. Orders are processed in the back and placed in finger-pull drawers behind the cashier. The cash-only shop has an on-site ATM for convenient transactions.

I browse the sculptural stone pipes and CBD-infused balms before chatting with a budtender and ordering some mellow edibles. The process is both easy as pie and thrillingly on the up-and-up. As a Gen Xer and former square who remembers all too well President Bill Clinton’s assertion that if he smoked pot, he “didn’t inhale,” the joyful transparency of SeaWeed Co.’s mission, realized in their elegant and inviting shop, is truly like a breath of fresh air—without even a whiff of patchouli.

SeaWeed Co., 185 Running Hill Road, South Portland, ME 04106. A sister location can be found at 23 Marginal Way, Portland, ME 04101.