Dispatches from Orange County: Cobb Launches Florida-Based Sunburn Cannabis

Cobb took a risk on building his brand before the acquisition closed - and it paid off.

Earlier this month, Brady Cobb rolled out some of the first of 11 dispensaries his company Green Sentry Holdings bought from MedMen (OTC: MMNFF) for $63 million in August. All of the stores will be rebranded as Sunburn Cannabis by the end of the first fiscal quarter.  

Green Market Report spoke with Cobb at the launch party for the Orlando storefront.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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How does it feel?

Brady Cobb: Good, man. It’s been quite the journey. This market environment over the last four months has been pretty brutal for cannabis.

To be able to raise the amount of capital that we raise for a private, single-state operator when everyone else was running to be a multistate operator. If you look at the stores that we were able to acquire – this store was $3.5 million dollars in capital that (MedMen) spent. We got 13 of them.

There’s $36 million bucks, almost $40 million dollars on just store improvement, plus the value of the paper license, plus the locations.

MedMen didn’t do a lot of things right, but they sited stores really well. High-traffic locations, high-traffic areas. The only dispensary in the state that doesn’t have frosted glass, so you can actually see into the store, more like a traditional retail experience.

It’s just been amazing to turn them. We’ve done eight stores, flipped from MedMen to Sunburn with our brands, since November 16. It’s been a very heavy lift. And we have three more (store openings) this month.

The farm’s catching up. It’s in Eustis, Florida. The quality of flower and product that we have coming out of that farm right now has surpassed all of my expectations for how quickly it would happen. The team is executing at a very high level.

It’s been a lot of fun. Fast paced. I’m tired, but it’s been a lot of fun.

When did the Eustis production site go online?

Cobb: We took over formally on Aug. 22, but part of the deal with MedMen is that I had the ability to get my team in the garden while we were in pre-closing. So, it was at our cost. I had to fund their payroll to get them in there, but I moved my entire growth team into the garden in February 2022.

My point to the MedMen board when I pitched it to them was either I’m going to fix your garden for free if I don’t close, or I get an eight-month, 10-month head start on the turnaround. That proved to be a really good investment of time and money, because when we closed, we were already ahead of schedule.

We’d already moved new genetics in, we’d already completely cleaned up the environmentals. Completely changed the gardening program, the harvest program, the dry cure program so that when we got launched, it was much closer to how we would want to see things than how MedMen had operated.

You’ve mentioned that you rely a lot on data analytics. Talk about that a little bit and how you’ve been applying that here.

Cobb: The perfect example is the CBN gummy launch. We pulled data to see what are the No. 1 selling gummies and what flavors are moving the needle. It looked like berry flavors are the ones that move, and it looked like CBN is number one. So, when we launched our array, we launched with hybrid sativa, and indica and CBN – and it was all in berry flavors. And we can’t keep them in stock.

That kind of applies across our business. We look at flower SKUs, I look at rosin SKUs. I’m studying California, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts. And we pull data sets every week.

We also created our own proprietary system, where I pull all of my competitors’ pricing on a daily basis.

The joke we make in the office is I know more about Curaleaf’s or Trulieve’s pricing and pricing architecture than they do. We are literally studying where stuff’s moving. And knowing that we’re different.

We have a very defined purpose. I am not in the volume game like Trulieve, Curaleaf, or Verano. I am in the premium game.

How do you strike the middle when it comes to like slow gain versus fast grabs?

Cobb: If it’s a fast nickel versus a slow dime, I’ll be the slow dime all day. I don’t need to be Walmart or Winn-Dixie. I want to be Whole Foods. I want to have a higher margin, better quality, more loyal customers that are not just shopping based on who’s running 60% off on a given week.

I want to be able to create brand loyalty. Our whole thesis is we believe brands are going to matter long-term. And with the Sunburn brand, with the backstory, my father’s story, my own story, this in-store experience that you’re seeing while you’re here with the vision board up on the wall.

For us, it’s about building a brand that when the alcohol moment happens federally, we’re something that Southern Wine & Spirits wants to put in their warehouse and carry because we’re a brand.

Now there are 22 more licenses getting released. Your reaction?

Cobb: It’s long overdue. I mean, it should have happened a while ago. I don’t get worried about it from my perspective, because anybody that comes into the game right now is three to four years behind me. They gotta go build a grow, they gotta go to try to find retail stores.

I welcome them to the the playing field. I’ll see ya in 2026. By then, I hope I build my brand strong enough that it’s not really gonna matter if they open up down the street.

What can Florida do right moving forward when we get into adult-use?

Cobb: They need to really invest in the Department of Health. We were on a great path, they kind of slowed it down with a new department director. They’ve gotta expand it out a little bit – fund them (and) get us to where we can actually get some stuff to happen.

What’s next for Sunburn?

Cobb: St. Petersburg grand opening next week, Jacksonville the last week of January. Then Deerfield, Key West, and South Beach.

And then all of our new flowers all coming into the garden. Truly our genetics, our stuff.

I’m here. It’s just turning the volume up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up and keep going.

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson writes about the cannabis industry for the Green Market Report. He previously covered the Missouri Statehouse for the Columbia Missourian and has written for the Missouri Independent. He most recently covered retail, restaurants and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Business News. You can find him on Twitter at @adam_sjackson and email him at adam.jackson@crain.com.

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