Guy Rocourt likes to joke that he didn’t intend to get into the ice cream business when he co-founded Papa & Barkley. This set-up is completed by the visual punchline of him gesturing to a massive walk-in freezer containing roughly $3 million worth of product.
The spectacle was part of a tour showcasing the company’s new, in-progress Eureka facilities.
Driving up Highway 101, it’s a five-hour journey from the San Francisco skyline to the redwood-laden visages of Papa & Barkley’s manufacturing headquarters. Though beautiful, the relative remoteness of Eureka from any major metropolitan area gives the city a somewhat sleepy, frozen-in-time vibe.
Nonetheless, this former central hub of the lumber trade is now taking root as a major source of labor for Papa & Barkley, as well as for the larger legalized cannabis industry.
When Rocourt and co-founder Adam Grossman started the company — which initially made its name as a THC-infused topical brand — they never anticipated just how quickly their facility needs would grow. Though the days of Rocourt hand-bottling balm on the line are now firmly in the rearview, Papa & Barkley’s growth led them to seek larger local spaces to house their expanding enterprise.
Eventually, a suitable answer arrived in the form of a nearby vacant Kmart.
The goal is to segment the 60,000-square-foot facility so that it adheres to the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice standards for the regulation of human pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, Rocourt said he is relieved to have some needed precautions, such as a back-up generator, already in place — and not only because it will ensure his prized freezer isn’t ever forced to thaw.
“This also means that we can provide power and shelter,” Rocourt said, “like a place for folks to charge phones and connect with loved ones in the event of an emergency.”
Rocourt and Grossman say they view the new venture as more than a business opportunity. They see it as a way to be a more active part of the Eureka community. Rather than a running a faceless manufacturing plant, Papa & Barkley are devoting a portion of the building to a combination dispensary, outdoor consumption lounge, day spa, and food truck site called Papa & Barkley Social.
Open for roughly a month, the property allows visitors 21 and older to purchase cannabis products from one of three woman-owned local brands in addition to the full slate of Papa & Barkley products (plus clones) in the dispensary.
A front area offers merchandise and wares from local merchants. At the spa, visitors can book massages with THC-infused balm. The permanent food truck offers tenderized pork shank drumettes and Korean bulgogi beef lettuce wraps.
Another station will also soon sell mocktails and coffee adjacent to a row of what are known as canna-cabanas.
“The idea,” Rocourt said, “is that you can reserve one of those and come for lunch or for a meeting. For others, it means you can get a product and then come enjoy it out here right away.”
In addition to the outright appeal of having a place where you can hit a joint while taking your next meeting, Rocourt promises reasonable corkage fees for those who bring their own stash. It’s all part of a hospitality push that ties into a bigger philosophy focused on putting Eureka on the map.
“We’re trying to establish an appellation right now,” he said, “similar to how Napa went from being this cheesy wine region to really elevating its reputation. We need that for Eureka, and Papa & Barkley Social is a big step towards that goal.”
Already, tourists from near and far reportedly have ventured to visit the spot, which helda 4/20 ribbon-cutting on the way to a gradual roll-out that now includes a full slate of spa services as well as daily vittles courtesy of the Pig & Leaf food truck.
On the horizon: partnerships with local inns to provide cannabis-friendly lodging, with hopes that a successful proof of concept could ultimately be replicated at scale at, say, the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles.
“We’re not talking about the Marriott,” Rocourt added, “but this isn’t a ‘bud and breakfast’ either.”
The challenge of making cannabis tourism a vital component of Eureka is one Rocourt seems to be taking personally. While such endeavors undoubtedly offer a potentially lucrative opportunity, they also speak to the brand’s commitment to Eureka as its home and willingness to lead by example.
Papa & Barkley’s expansion is a lot of action for a place mostly known for its historic buildings, copious antique shops, and logging-mad past, but hey, if it all gets a bit stressful, at least you can get a massage.
Zack Ruskin covers cannabis for SF Weekly. Twitter @zackruskin