Long before weed was legal, long before popular brands established themselves throughout California, Champelli was a name that was synonymous with the best of the best. Champelli’s founder Joe is more commonly known by the name Champelli, a nickname he was given when his own strain Champagne blew up in the late nineties/early 2000s, in such demand that it was referenced in music at the time.
In those days, it was inevitable during a ramped up War on Drugs that any high profile person in weed was going to get busted, which is exactly what happened to Champelli. He left the country for about five years and travelled Europe until things at home cooled down. He returned, sorted out his legal troubles, and decided to get back into the weed game that he had spent his life since his teenage years working in.
Starting in 2017, he decided to relaunch the Champelli brand with an eye toward going on the legal rec market eventually. After years of sourcing and curating genetics and marketing and branding himself on the scene once again, he launched on the rec market early this year with five proprietary strains, each of which has sold out whenever its available on shelves.
Today, Champelli still stands for top-shelf weed, fashion, and music. It is California through and through, a brand for those who love the best in California weed and who live the lifestyle that goes with it.
We chatted with Champelli to learn more about where he’s come from, what he represents, and what’s next for the Champelli brand.
So you were able to avoid some serious trouble, and after being on the run for many years, you were able to get back to where you left off. Why’d you decide to get back into weed?
Weed has always been one of my passions. My first loves, for sure, music and weed. I did clothing as kind of an art in general. So, it’s always been a passion of mine, I wanted to get back into the creative space and start doing that. So, once I got off probation, I started basically cultivating again.
Why didn’t you bring the Champelli brand back sooner? We saw a lot of brands launching around 2015 and earlier.
I was still a little bit weary of bringing it back, just because of what I’ve been through and I was still very much in the shadows. And then I just saw so many people, merging with brands, and being more and more out in the open with cannabis and then I felt a little more comfortable about coming out and telling my story. Just being a little more open about venturing the brand into cannabis.
My mind was already geared towards marketing and branding and curating a sound, so to speak, of the brand message. Once I got done with my probation, I started doing music videos and photography and working back on my music production. So, all that stuff also kind of helped hone my skills, directing videos, photography, all that kind of helped my mindset. Everything’s worked toward crafting this brand and putting it together.
So the music has always been a part of the brand for you. Are you doing music now?
Right now, just because my focus has been solely on the business side, and breeding and cultivating and just building the brand and so forth. So, it has taken a lot of my energies. And obviously, the music has been kind of on the back burner a little more at the moment, but this year, I’m getting ready to put a bigger focus on the music.
And clothing is also a big part of your brand. You do apparel well.
I’m just looking for more and more ways to express myself through that medium, and slowly build a following and more support in that area for my projects. Support has been building and people are supporting and buying stuff. That just allows me freedom to start creating and putting more stuff that I’m passionate about and onto the market.
How would you describe your style?
I would say, modern meets retro meets comfort. Not just one thing. I want to move into doing joggers, sweatsuit and track jackets. And then also be able to make a sweater or more high-end and dressier pieces as well, moving forward.
Of course, the weed is most important. What is your approach to the product you put out?
I really want to be hands-on when it comes to creating flavors. I’ve always been a breeder. And I guess you could say geneticist to a degree there, just making flavors and curating flavors, and hunting, and trying to make sure that Champelli’s menu is unique and proprietary.
So, the last couple of years, I’ve been in the trenches, creating new flavors and trying to bring that premium flavor to market. And it’s not easy scaling stuff and cultivating and getting stuff grown correctly, the way you want it to be grown. As people’s standards change and the cannabis is evolving quality-wise, the consumer is evolving with it. People want white ash, they want a white ring, they want it to taste and be amazing all around.
I’ve had to find strategic partners and cultivation, partners that I could collaborate with in breeding, so I can scale this brand and make it a household name nationwide, basically.
It sounds like setting up the weed side of things, from creating strains to scaling up production, has taken a lot of your focus.
It has been taken a lot of work to try to set the foundation for that as far as cultivation goes and breeding and creating our own menu. This year, I’m finally getting a chance to start scaling up a bunch of my flavors with cultivators and giving people a chance to grow some of the genetics that I’ve made over the past couple of years. And I’m just finally doing that now. And so people coming up that are going to be trying Champelli are up for a serious treat as far as everything that’s going to be on the menu, pretty soon. It’ll all be proprietary stuff, that I had a hand in cultivating, and hunting and creating, basically, and curating the menu to make a proprietary unique experience for the consumer.
What strain terp profiles do you go for?
I’ve honestly been focusing on things that I’m interested in that I love and want to see, and give people a chance to try. I haven’t been so driven by just what the market wants. I want to bring unique stuff that isn’t just driven by market demand, so to speak. I want to bring new interesting things for people to try that are unique and expose people to new flavors and new ways of thinking about cannabis and fashion and music.
So, looking to create stuff that is new to your palate and unique and evolves the game rather than just the existing pool of what’s out there now. I definitely want to try to evolve the flavors. And at the same time, we are relying a little bit on existing things, everybody is building on a lot of existing things. But one of the things that makes us unique is I do have seeds dating back as late as even before my birth to the late 60s, and 70s and 80s. I have genetics from then that I’m also getting ready to crack and scale up and find creative ways to introduce those and cross those to bring new and interesting, different terpene profiles that have been lost, or just slept on for years.
Tell me about what’s on the menu at the moment?
Right now, we have the Xclusivo, which is a candy-gas leaning strain. We have the Ropium, which is unique onto itself. We have the Super Gremlin, which is a Z-leaning sort of thing. We also have the Modiano and we have the Casies. So that’s five different flavors right now that we have that are on the shelves.
And it’s going to keep getting more and more interesting as we move forward this year. I have so many more genetics and interesting things that are going to be coming up here this year for everyone. Tons of new flavors. So, people have to keep an eye out for new bags and names and new flavors coming, which I’m truly excited about bringing to the market.
It’s great that you’re really invested in bringing new strains to market. That’s the name of the game.
Whether it is Runtz or Zkittlez, or Cookies, or Sherbert, or Gelato, or Haze, or OG, all these different things have their place in history and the direction of cannabis history, as did the Champagne and Champelli and its own mythological urban lore where it exists. So, everything has had its chance to make an imprint.
People are doing a lot of genetic work and a lot of pheno hunting and crosses, and just interesting stuff. So, I’m looking forward to see what all the great work that everybody’s been putting in and all the passion and love that people have for the plant in order to take the time to try to make new stuff. And that’s where the excitement comes in.
You’re really involved in the whole process of strain selection and cultivation.
I definitely want to have a hand in making sure we’re bringing the fire. Because a lot of it comes down to taste making and curating. What I’m doing with a lot of the different partner cultivations I’m working with I’m having to tell them what to scale out, what to scale up, what’s hot, what’s not. And so one person can be sitting on the most amazing strain in the world and not know it. It takes somebody who has the palate and really can recognize stuff for what it is to come in and say hey, this is really a great thing.
So, it kind of is a combination as a tastemaker for me to try and just bring unique things to people’s palates that I appreciate, and flavors that I appreciate; the same way I would with cooking, the same way I would bring the flavors of clothing, and the different new styles, the same way I would bring new sounds to people’s ears. All those things for me is being a tastemaker curator, creator.
How has the response been in these first few months that you’ve been on dispensary shelves?
We’re getting a lot of support and a lot of traction in the market. Stuff is selling out like crazy. Stuff is kind of just flying off the shelves. And it’s really great to see that people are getting a chance to try the flavors are appreciating. We consider everybody just part of the big family growing together and building this movement.