[Captains of cannabis]

Armen Yemenidjian, CEO, Essence Cannabis Dispensary & Desert Grown Farms

Armen Yemenidjian

Armen Yemenidjian is all in. The founder of Essence—a local dispensary with three locations, including the only shop on Las Vegas Boulevard—was on a fairly traditional career track before he went green: He was vice president of both casino marketing and casino operations at the Tropicana. In order to start Essence—and its affiliated cultivation facility, Desert Grown Farms—he had to surrender his Nevada gaming license. He doesn’t regret it. “It’s really exciting to create something new, to start off with a blank canvas,” Yemenidjian says.

He has painted that canvas with more than a few familiar shades. Essence is a boutique with the look of a resort spa—the clean, modern lines; the pale green of the chairs popping against the soft white walls. One look tells you that Yemenidjian created Essence using the lessons he learned at the Trop. It feels like Vegas. “It’s all about giving a plus-one experience,” Yemenidjian says. “That’s what creates raving fans.”

Some of those Vegas hospitality skills transferred nicely—“You know, customer service, security”—but Yemenidjian had to learn at least one important detail in transit. “Before this, I’d never really grown anything,” he says. “I didn’t have a green thumb or anything of the sort. Finding that agricultural side has probably taken the biggest adjustment.”

Now Yemenidjian talks expertly about cultivation and the characteristics of various strains, adding another skill to his hospitality set. Good thing, too. There’s lots of room for Essence to expand in Vegas, and Yemenidjian says he’s watching the blossoming California market “very closely.” Spoken like a true grower.

Disclosure: Brian Greenspun, the CEO, publisher and editor of Greenspun Media Group, the parent company of Las Vegas Weekly, has an ownership interest in Essence Cannabis Dispensary.

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