As one of the more visible brands in California’s regulated cannabis industry, some readers may be familiar with the origin story behind Papa & Barkley.
Founder Adam Grossman created the first batch of the brand’s signature “Releaf” balm in his parent’s Massachusetts kitchen, not under the auspices of scientific experimentation but as a last-ditch act of desperation. Armed only with a slow-cooker, Grossman’s hope was that his THC-rich concoction might aid his father’s debilitating back problem.
Grossman’s dad — the “Papa” of Papa & Barkley — responded immediately to the balm, which has since grown into a line of wellness products that can be found at seemingly every dispensary across California.
In choosing to scale operations, Grossman and his team of executives made a choice that suggests the long-term possibility that proximity to the Bay Area or Los Angeles may, in fact, be overrated when it comes to manufacturing.
While many cannabis (and cannabis adjacent) companies call the Bay Area home, others have located in cheaper locales closer to the Emerald Triangle. For this edition of Chem Tales, I traveled north to write about Papa & Barkley, for whom a pivotal moment arrived when Grossman opted to situate his company’s manufacturing operations in Eureka.
In the spirit of full disclosure, part of the trip was subsidized by Papa & Barkley (Editor’s note: We felt the news value for readers from such a trip outweighed any ethical concerns).
Located 270 miles north of San Francisco, Eureka is a former logging town in the process of redefining its identity. Grossman believes that cannabis — regulated, taxed, safely handled cannabis — is poised to play a substantial role in that process.
“Papa & Barkley’s bond with Eureka started organically,” Grossman says. “I have family there. Now we pride ourselves on creating positive change through initiatives such as donating to the Sequoia Park Zoo, volunteering at cleanups and the local food bank, and by creating jobs. In fact, we are now the largest manufacturer in Eureka.”
Naturally, one of Eureka’s primary appeals is its location within the hallowed Emerald Triangle that connects Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties as the epicenter of quality cannabis. Working with a number of nearby small farmers — Papa & Barkley purchases various types of cannabis to create their balms, tinctures, capsules, and live resins — the effect of the company’s presence on Eureka itself is palpable.
“The economic impact of Papa & Barkley in Eureka has been impressive,” confirms Lane Miller, finance director of the City of Eureka. “They have revitalized vacant and run-down buildings and have quickly become one of the City’s largest private employers. Legalization has been challenging in Humboldt County, but businesses like this make us excited for the future. In addition, they have been a great community partner and are always looking to give back.”
The company currently employs 99 people and plans on increasing to 136 people by the end of the year.
Recently, Papa & Barkley purchased a vacant K-Mart building in the area. Grossman and his team are now hard at work turning the space into the company’s new manufacturing headquarters.
On a press tour underwritten by Papa & Barkley that took place in September, one also couldn’t help but run into employees from the company around every street corner. The camaraderie built in this former logging hotspot stands in stark contrast to San Francisco, where workers leap from company to company. People genuinely seem stoked to work for Grossman’s brand.
That tends to happen when a new employer comes to town offering 401(k) plans with matching and comprehensive benefits. I also observed several times people stopping Papa & Barkley employees on the street and thank them for their product.
Perhaps the toughest approval of all to get is that of the local growers — the individuals who have risked their freedom, and, in some cases, their lives — to provide quality cannabis to those in need. One such outfit, Humboldt’s Emerald Queen Farms, expresses gratitude for the chance to partner with Papa & Barkley.
Keeping a community alive has vast ramifications, from the quality of the neighborhood watering hole to the availability of seasonal workers direly needed at cannabis farms when the time arrives for trimming and harvesting.
“Papa & Barkley continues to prove its commitment to our community by expanding its manufacturing capabilities in Eureka, which enables the company to hire more locals and keep up relations with many small farms in Humboldt county,” says Emerald Queen’s Hannah Whyte. “This allows Papa & Barkley’s purchasing power to foster the sustainable cultivation traditions of family farms in Humboldt County and the Emerald Triangle.”