Erich Pearson

Photo by Joe Kukura

The Love Shack Is Back! (It’s Now Called ‘The Love Shack by SPARC’)

Hop in your Chrysler that’s as big as a whale, because the Mission’s Love Shack by SPARC dispensary just set sail again after a one-year hiatus.

Some of San Francisco’s very first dispensaries were around before medical-marijuana cards even existed. One of those shuttered legacy dispensaries has returned.

The Love Shack is back after closing in March 2018, now under the slightly revised new name Love Shack by SPARC.

Re-established at the corner of 14th and Guerrero streets, the Love Shack by SPARC is a little old place that’s literally both little and old. The retail space feels as small as the tiniest San Francisco studio apartment, but it has operated there as the Love Shack since way back in 2002.

“We wanted to embrace the history and the character that it had in the neighborhood,” says owner Erich Pearson, who also runs the SPARC dispensaries in SoMa and Lower Haight.

“We had a lot of folks walking by when we were putting down the new mural on the floor, jumping up and down, happy to see us here.”

That stone tile sidewalk mosaic, depicting a red heart, does not date back to the Love Shack’s old incarnation. And while it once had of the city’s earliest pot-smoking lounges, the former Love Shack was always a medical marijuana-only dispensary. The new Love Shack by SPARC does indeed sell recreational cannabis.

But it’s still the same one-room dispensary it always was, though the dorm room-style collection of posters is gone. The new place is a work in progress, more closely resembling an unfurnished waiting room, and you can only browse through the store’s stock by swiping on iPad menus.

“We’ve got some more pieces coming,” Pearson tells SF Weekly, gesturing at a blank wall. “This little store has the challenge that there’s not a whole lot of space.”

Pearson just bought the building in December, so Love Shack by SPARC has come together pretty quickly. But just as with the also newly resurrected Vapor Room, a shuttered dispensary is not an easy thing to reopen.

“The city doesn’t allow outright transfers of medical cannabis dispensaries’ [permits],” he explains. An existing retail cannabis permit only allows for a 49 percent transfer of ownership, not majority transfer. So Pearson had to buy 49 percent of the Love Shack, get zoning and Office of Cannabis approval, and then buy the rest of his majority stake.

Still, being a longstanding San Francisco business has its benefits. In this case, the neighborhood has a zoning designation of Neighborhood Commercial Cluster District (known as NC1) that does not allow dispensaries.

Because Love Shack was here four years prior to the passage of the Medical Cannabis Act in 2006, it was grandfathered in, he says, in reference to Board of Supervisors landmark legislation from from more than a decade ago.

There is no consumption or smoking allowed on-site at Love Shack by SPARC, but Pearson has some interesting plans once the early smoke clears and the new place is established.

“We are investigating expanding into the cafe next door, and having a consumption lounge there,” he says. That spot is currently the Mission Beach Cafe.

There’s no need to bang on the door, baby, as the Love Shack by SPARC is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It may not be the biggest dispensary in San Francisco, but the whole Shack shimmies with a sense of local cannabis history.

Love Shack by SPARC, 502 14th St., 415-552-5121 or sparcsf.org/loveshack