On one end of the cannabis dispensary spectrum are the kinds of places where you feel uneasy and unwelcome, their dark lighting and cramped quarters as unappealing as the scowling employees behind the counter. On the entirely opposite end of that spectrum ― and really in a class all by itself ― is Coastal, the city’s newest cannabis shop.
Walking into the sleek and airy Coastal space, located on Chapala Street right next to the downtown Ralph’s, feels like entering a high-end surf shop or health food store. In other words, very Santa Barbara. After passing through the security check-in, you’re greeted by a smiling budtender who offers to help you find what you’re looking for, whether it be flowers, edibles, cartridges, etc. The concentrates are housed in a chilled chocolatier case near a dealcoholized wine infused with THC.
The dispensary carries more than 30 brands and 400-plus cannabis-containing products, from multistate retailers to local, small-batch producers, with strain names as pleasant as Biscotti and as provocative as Alaskan Thunder F*ck. Coastal even has its own line divided into the three categories of Play, Chill, and Care, depending on your desired effect or medical need; most of it is grown in Carpinteria greenhouses.
“We basically have whatever you want,” explained CEO Julian Michalowski during a recent tour. “If you’re looking for the best, we offer the best.” The tenders, the majority of whom hail from Santa Barbara, might direct you to a table where you can examine and smell flowers locked in small plastic containers, or they may point you toward two giant touch screens where you can scroll through the store’s entire inventory. If want even less human contact ― and let’s be honest, we all have those days ― you can place your order online from home and grab your purchase from the pickup window. There’s a delivery service and loyalty program, too.
Coastal, which opened September 12, is hard at work launching three other dispensaries in Goleta, Lompoc, and San Luis Obispo, but Santa Barbara is home base. Corporate headquarters with office and manufacturing space is being built on Reddick Street, and Michalowski estimated the company will employ more than 100 people in town by year’s end.
Flanked by a living plant wall and photos of Hollister Ranch, Michalowski talked a lot about the importance of “healthy, happy, and active” living and how everything about Coastal is meant to promote that lifestyle. He said they were particularly proud of their Coastal Cares program, where employees volunteer with nearby nonprofits. Their first two recipients are the Unity Shoppe and PATH.
Devon Wardlow, Coastal’s director of public affairs, acknowledged the “fair and robust” debate around recreational cannabis and its place in Santa Barbara. Sure, people in the industry have made mistakes (the same could be said for local government regulators), and everyone is still finding their footing. But tensions, at least in the city, are already easing. Coastal earned the top score in the city’s competitive, merit-based licensing process, Wardlow noted. “We’re all learning from each other,” she said, “and we’re all going to be okay.”
Coastal, located at 1019 Chapala Street, is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit coastaldispensary.com.