Inside and Out

Papa & Barkley Social

By Jennifer Savage

The love child of cannabis manufacturer Papa & Barkley and hospitality company Humboldt Social, the new Papa Barkley Social is exactly what you’d expect from a merging of the two local businesses: a well-designed, inviting combination of spaces where people can purchase the cannabis products of their choice and indulge in them in the outdoor consumption lounge. What’s less expected is the boutique-y day spa vibe — a deliberate strategy by the partnership to make people feel at ease when they come through the door. That they’ve managed to pull this off in a former Kmart tucked away in a part of town not exactly considered thriving speaks to the skilled design and business savvy of the Humboldt Social team. 

Because no matter how tasteful the Papa & Barkley signs are, the fact remains that as one drives along Broadway and turns into the mall-sized parking lot, the first impression is more of “Are you sure about this?” than “This is clearly going to be really cool.” Take heart, dear traveler! Once through the door, you’ll find yourself in a place of respite. Papa & Barkley Social concierges greet customers right away and cheerfully acquaint newcomers to their options, which include an elegant dispensary with a sweet day spa tucked behind it, an expansive cannabis tasting patio and the upscale Pig & Leaf food truck. Take the little rolled hot towel scented with essential oils.

So first, the dispensary. If you’ve spent time at Humboldt Social Club or followed the remodel of the Scotia Inn on Instagram, you’re familiar with the Humboldt Social aesthetic: a balance of space and warmth, a modern vibe with an appropriately rustic twist. The dispensary offers the deluxe version of that aesthetic, coupled with a bit of whimsy in the form of “The Nest,” an Instagram-ready botanical art installation. The space’s brightness speaks to how far the cannabis-buying experience has come, more Whole Foods than head shop. As for products, consumers can choose from the Papa & Barkley flagship line, Social Nature — Humboldt Social’s own line of cannabis products — plus options from Sunrise Mountain Farm, Emerald Queen Farm and Dewpoint, all three sun-farmed, family-farmed and women-owned. 

The “spa” is really just a few massage tables and chairs divided by hanging curtains, but even in the limited space, options are many and nothing about the experience feels cramped. I opted for a 25-minute stretch with massage therapist Nicole Fryer, who maneuvered my legs into various positions to increase flexibility. Even sans optional THC add-ons, I left the session more bendy than I entered it. The appeal of the spa is twofold. For regular cannabis imbibers, the combining of wellness experiences is long overdue. For those new to the cannabis scene, the spa offers familiar services, helping to provide a foundational comfort zone.

This is also true for the consumption lounge, where posh outdoor seating borders fire pits under broad umbrellas — the only thing missing is the glimmering hotel pool. Reservations aren’t required but can be had for $40 per hour per booth. Large party? Best to plan ahead. After all, this is the heart of the experience, the most popular attraction: the opportunity to smoke, indulge in edibles or partake of a cannabis beverage with the same freedom bar patrons have for centuries. Purchase your indulgences of choice in the dispensary or bring your own (a $20 minimum is required either way).

For those less interested in that sort of mood-altering, another form of pleasure is offered in the form of Pig & Leaf’s menu. As a pescaterian, I assumed my options would be limited to the “leaf” part of the menu — aka salads — but I was pleased to discover multiple veggie options including Thai-style pickled vegetables and delicious vegan jackfruit wraps. 

No matter which options or how many you indulge in, the boutique will likely catch your interest on your way. Full of the staff’s favorite CBD, jewelry, and health and beauty products, the curated collection of locally made goods provides all kinds of ways to extend, and remember, what Papa & Barkley’s Founder and Executive Chairman Adam Grossman calls an “elevated cannabis experience.” 

Finally, while stretched out in the lounge, blue sky overhead and the air fragrant, I thought of a dear friend of mine who lives in San Diego. She’s been a cannabis aficionado since high school but, as an adult, she tells me she longs for exactly this kind of experience. Those of us lucky enough to live in Humboldt are used to showing visitors the best we have to offer, indoors and out. I’ll add this to the list when she visits.