Posted July 9th 2012 at 10:32 am by
in Profiles

High Times for Kush Groove, a Boston Apparel Business

Is Boston a good place to start a small business? For Marcus Johnson-Smith, co-founder of Kush Groove Clothing Company, Boston was the obvious choice. Less than a year ago, Kush Groove Clothing Company launched a line of high-quality, brightly-colored t-shirts stamped with original designs.

Marcus grew up in Cambridge and went to Northeastern University for college and graduate school, so he understands his local market. He loves both his hometown and the massive college-going crowd that passes through it every year. Perhaps most important of all for Kush Groove (do yourself the favor of clicking on that link), though, is the vote Massachusetts residents cast in 2008 to decriminalize marijuana possession. Now, why would law about cannabis impact an apparel company? “The relaxation of marijuana, in terms of it becoming decriminalized, for us reflected where people stood with it – where our target market stood with it on a policy level,” said Marcus.

High Times for Kush Groove, a New Boston Apparel Business

Marcus in a Kush Groove Clothing Company t-shirt.

Kush Groove brands itself as a “lifestyle expression brand for stoners celebrating the 420 culture”.  Among smokers, 4:20 p.m. is known as the ideal time of day to consume cannabis. Marcus describes it best:

Audio transcription: 420 culture is the celebration of smoking weed, to be blunt. It’s the pre-game before going out. It’s hanging out with folks, drinking beers, having some liquor, smoking a cigarette or so, listening to music, watching a movie – but under the influence of being stoned. That’s what it’s about at its core.

But beyond that, says Marcus, “It’s bigger than smoking marijuana. There’s the art piece, the food piece, and just being relaxed and sharing a good time with friends — that’s Kush Groove.”  Understanding the full scope of 420 culture has helped Marcus and his co-founders realize the breadth of their brand:

High Times for Kush Groove, a New Boston Apparel Business

A classic Kush Groove Clothing Company design at Got Sole in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Audio transcription:  The epiphany came when we realized that it was more than the clothes. We knew we wanted to start with clothes. It was the easiest. But it was like, “Alright. This is about the arts. You know, this is about the music. This is about the celebration.” And so that’s why we’re looking to expand the product lines – go in to producing art work, go in to hosting events, doing different entertainment-type things.”

Marcus, though only 26 years old, has consciously made himself open to epiphanies.  He used his senior year of college to write a book on the emerging adulthood experience, and left a comfortable job at the prestigious Boston Foundation to launch his business.

The name Kush Groove comes from the 1985 movie Krush Groove. But Kush, unlike Krush, is the name of a strain of cannabis.

Audio transcription:  The name Kush Groove is a namesake of the movie Krush Groove that came out in the mid-80s. It was a cult flick that really told the story of Def Jam Records and the rise of hip-hop as a mainstream genre. And so for us, we wanted to use the theme of Krush Groove the movie with a little spin. Rather than use the word “Krush” we wanted to use the word “Kush” to symbolize the celebration of the 4:20 movement, which our brand is about.

High Times for Kush Groove, a New Boston Apparel Business

Got Sole, a new sneaker and skateboard store at 617 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, sells Kush Grove Clothing.

Kush Groove clothing is available at Got Sole in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts and Kulturez in Harvard Square. Green Street Vault, which is kind of like a food truck except that it sells apparel instead of food, did a Kush Groove promotion on April 20th (4/20) of this year. Marcus rode around with the Green Street Vault team, stopping at different locations to sell gear from the truck and hang out with 420-loving Bostonians. The company also presented its clothing at a fashion show at nearby Tufts University.

With the help of these small local businesses and institutions, Kush Groove is proliferating. Last month the company got its products into ThreadZ, a store in Atlanta, Ga.

Lately, Marcus has been seeing people he’s never met in Kush Groove clothing. He’ll be walking down the street or at an event, and notice someone sporting his company’s gear. “I usually don’t say anything – I want to let people be. But it makes me smile on the inside, if I could put it that way.”

Find Kush Groove on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Post by Alexa Mills.

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