With woven lounge chairs, a spacious brick patio and silk floral arrangements, The Lighthouse looks like a sleek new coffeehouse or trendy boutique.
But step inside and you’ll be asked for your identification, because The Lighthouse is actually a cannabis dispensary. It’s the newest in Palm Springs, and the latest example of how the consumer-facing side of the legalized cannabis industry is ratcheting up the luxe factor in an attempt to destigmatize the drug.
The Lighthouse, located at 395 North Palm Canyon Drive, is the second store from operators who opened a Coachella outlet of the same name last year. In addition to operating as a dispensary, the Palm Springs location houses Bluebird Coffee, a coffee shop accessible through an outdoor window for patrons of all ages.
By early 2020, owners say the location will house a consumption lounge that will double as an event space, plus a bakery counter featuring infused treats.
Co-owner Joseph Rubin said the goal of The Lighthouse is to create a space where people feel comfortable coming in to learn about cannabis, and not feel like they’re walking into “a head shop,” which are stores that sells cannabis paraphernalia throughout.
In lieu of posters of pot leaves and darkened store windows, there are hydrangeas in glass vases and floor-to-ceiling windows. Artists-in-residence will display work for sale in the shop.
“We said, ‘Let’s use what we’ve learned from the first store and take that one step further,’” Rubin said. “Taking away the stigma, but making an experience of people wanting to come in, learn about the product, get all the knowledge from people who understand what they’re doing and can provide a good service to people looking for help on the recreation side as well as the medical side.”
While many dispensaries separate the check-in area from the retail shop, The Lighthouse space is open concept. Rubin said it’s an “open-air, Dean and Deluca-type experience.”
Dispensaries have various rules for how customers can purchase items after checking in with their identification to verify their age. At The Lighthouse, they can browse the store on their own, or work with a budtender to walk them through the items.
Customers who want to purchase cannabis in its flower form can peer into cases with marbled-patterned countertops containing samples in glass jars, and ask a budtender to pull it out for a smell. Once they’ve decided, orders are filled and paid for at the checkout counter.
Kendrick Jackson, an employee at the new Lighthouse location, previously worked as a manager at Denny’s and has a background in sales. He said he’s enjoyed learning more about different types of cannabis products, like balms and tinctures that can be used to help address certain physical concerns.
“It’s definitely an eye-opening experience,” he said.
Rubin said he aims to stock the store with a range of price points, and sees the store appealing to locals and tourists to Palm Springs alike. The store is located is a spacious corner location that once served as a food court, with multiple kitchens – including bakery equipment that will be re-purposed for the future bakery counter.
Some Palm Springs residents at public hearings on cannabis have raised concerns about dispensaries becoming too prolific in the city. Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors, who sits on the council’s cannabis subcommittee and attended a ribbon-cutting for the facility last week, said The Lighthouse is an example of a well-designed project that re-purposes an empty space that been vacant for well over a decade.
“Here we had someone who was willing to invest the money to bring it back to life,” Kors said.
Compared to other Coachella Valley dispensaries, The Lighthouse’s second location builds upon its reputation as fitting in the higher end of the market.
Baylee Chapo runs W0lfpack, a marketing company that specializes in working with cannabis companies. She’s working to build a guide to the dozens of dispensaries that have opened up in the Coachella Valley since legalization kicked in, and has seen the range of stores that are out there.
While she had yet to see the new Lighthouse location, she said the “Hollywood-ing” of dispensaries isn’t always necessary for a shop to succeed. Consumers who routinely purchase are more concerned with the price point and quality of a product than the look of the store, she said.
But she added that there are niches for stores with an “Apple store” vibe to help those who are newer to the industry learn about the products and feel safe doing so.
“I think there’s types of dispensaries for each type of consumer,” she said.
The Lighthouse has ambitious plans to grow its presence in southern California and elsewhere, with plans to expand further in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Massachusetts.
“I want to take it wherever I can,” Rubin said, “but the most important thing is that we’re expanding methodically, carefully, with a very focused approach.”
Customers can check out The Lighthouse this Sunday after 1 p.m., with the coffee shop slated to start operating on Monday, Nov. 4.
Regular store hours are 7 a.m. to 9:50 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 9:50 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. As of Friday, the store is cash-only with an ATM on site.