HAYWARD — Smiling greeters at a check-in desk, soft lighting and creams displayed behind glass make the Garden of Eden more like a spa than a marijuana dispensary.
Outside, greenery covers the living walls and a towering billboard proclaims, “You’ve arrived,” to drivers speeding past on busy Foothill Boulevard near Interstate 580.
“I wanted to create a world-class dispensary experience,” Shareef El-Sissi, Eden’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “I want to be the three Michelin-star of dispensaries.”
Not only is the living wall eye-catching — the goal of its design — it hints the business is a hideaway and invites passersby to step inside.
It’s all very different from 15 years ago, when people seeking medical marijuana would see shabby carpets and folding chairs instead of the flat screens now on the walls showcasing the flower Bacio Gelato ($65 for 3.5 grams) or a package of Saturday morning mini-cookies ($20).
“It calls people here,” Nick Rose, Eden’s director of sales and marketing, said about the new look. “We wanted to create a real ‘Garden of Eden.’ ”
On Friday, the business will celebrate the transformation with speeches, a ribbon cutting, games and other activities.
Among those expected to attend are Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci of Union City, where voters will decide this November whether to impose a cannabis business tax. It follows Union City’s city council signaling it would support two cannabis businesses earlier this year.
Representatives from the cities of Mountain View, Walnut Creek and Fremont also have been invited.
For years, the dispensary just north of Hayward operated very low-key. There were no signs identifying it, not even on the door.
“It’s very, very different,” Mark Grant said Wednesday as he stood inside the Garden of Eden, waiting to make a purchase. “It’s