Erich Pearson was in the midst of another 16-hour-day working at his company’s Sonoma Valley farm when he took a break to reflect on the past four months.
“It feels like it’s been five years since COVID started,” says Pearson, the CEO of the San Francisco-based dispensary SPARC.
A common sentiment these days, Pearson’s personal mental fog understandably began when San Francisco’s shelter-in-place restrictions went into effect on March 17. After a brief period in which the city’s legal cannabis businesses were told to shutter all operations, pot shops were designated essential services and allowed to continue operations — albeit in a majorly modified form.
For SPARC, the pivot to delivery and curbside pick-up has ensured the lights stay on, but as Pearson explains, the overall volume of retail traffic lost to San Francisco dispensaries is hurting his bottom line.
“We don’t have the population during the day that San Francisco normally has,” he says. “Anybody who was commuting into town — the half a million or so people that come into San Francisco every day to work — they aren’t coming in to work anymore. Plus, anybody who lives in San Francisco who has the ability to work from home is leaving.”
SPARC has a large footprint when it comes to Bay Area cannabis brands. In addition to retail locations in the Haight, Mission, and SoMA, the company also has stores in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. According to Pearson, retail sales have been notably stronger for SPARC’s North Bay locations, which is also where the operation’s cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution efforts take place.
That’s because, as a vertical company, SPARC takes cannabis from seed to sale. It also gives Pearson some unique options when it comes to promoting SPARC products.
One way in which Pearson hopes