Someday, maybe someday very soon, we'll be past the era when a well-designed storefront coming to the neighborhood is a big enough deal to warrant a years-long origin story—even if that store happens to sell weed, as Apothecarium's new location on Lombard Street will do starting Wednesday.
For now, having medical cannabis sales in the Marina is a big deal—a bigger deal for the marijuana industry than it is for the Marina. This is a symbolic achievement, a giant step forward and away from the times when the only places where a weed store could hope to set up shop were neighborhoods charitably described as "hardscrabble" (the real-estate version of a microaggression). As of today, Apothecarium's Marina outlet is the only legal marijuana store between Lower Nob Hill and the town of Fairfax, nearly 20 miles to the north.
It's taken this long for legal cannabis to come to the Marina because… well, who can say why exactly? NIMBYism? Reefer madness? A combination of both? Whatever the reasons, real or stated, that struggle is long over, and there's now a weed seller a few steps from the ice cream shops, upscale boutiques, and abundant bars on family-friendly by day and Millennial party-time by night Chestnut Street.
Wandering around the space, a well-lit rectangle in the shape of a shoebox plucked from the long-and-narrow section, you wonder if there was ever justification for all the fuss. Barring total gentrification elsewhere in San Francisco, this is, for now, the toniest address of any cannabis retailer in town, and it has been carefully and appropriately tricked out.
A neutral palette of black, white, and gray, with a soft-brown wood floor and sleek surfaces dominate the interior, designed by architect Vincent Gonzaga and the interior design team at Urban Chalet. Sunlight spills in from the glass-heavy streetfront, and what corners the sun can't kiss are illuminated by a long row of conical, water jug–shaped lamps hung from the coffered ceiling, itself painted bright white.
Victorian accents, in the form of tufted velvet chairs arranged around a low table, stand in contrast to the faux-marble-topped bar, saving the sleek and shiny aesthetic from turning antiseptic. A sparkling chandelier—an Apothecarium signature—greets visitors and casts extra light on a moss wall hung on the interior's eastern-facing side.
Cleaning up nice and presenting a fresh face is Apothecarium's style, but it's also undoubtedly the politic thing to do: Any animosity that lingered after the dispensary's arduous approval process won't survive the art direction. "When people walk by and see the chandelier and the moss wall, they say, 'Oh my god, this is the cannabis shop they were talking about?'" says Michael Caruso, the store's general manager. "'This is incredible.'"
Yes, and that's all nice, but what about the essence—what about the weed? For now, Apothecarium's Lombard Street menu will resemble that of the flagship location on Market Street in the Castro: High-end flower and stylishly branded edibles (like Somatik's medicated Ritual coffee)—and lots of all of it. There will be no dab bar and, for now, the focus is strictly medical, with the appeal as broad as it can be—at least until City Hall figures out what to do about recreational marijuana sales next year.
"It's no different from how we do business anywhere else," Caruso says. (In addition to Lombard and Market streets, Apothecarium has a working location in Las Vegas and has won permits to open in Berkeley as well as on Noriega Street in the Outer Sunset.) "This is an atmosphere where everybody can be comfortable." That is, as long as you're comfortable in the Marina, which, for the first time, has medical marijuana on the menu.
// The Apothecarium is open 11am to 8pm at 2414 Lombard St. (Marina), apothecariumsf.com