La Corona Wellness review: A legit neighborhood dispensary
The Grass Agency is on a mission. Over the course of the next few months, we’ll roam San Francisco's notoriously twisted streets in search of the best cannabis dispensaries, experiences, and products. We’ll visit the city’s 30-plus adult use dispensaries and rate them based on service, selection, style, and ethics. We’re holding our final critiques for the first edition of The Grass Guide, but, in the meantime, you can expect to see snapshots and dispatches from our fantastic voyage right here.
For more than 20 years, Jorge Esparza owned Coronitas, a local bar on the edge of the rapidly gentrifying Mission District. As tech workers and tourists poured into the neighborhood, Latino families who’d lived there for generations were forced to move to the city’s periphery. Coronitas’ regulars became less regular. Then, in June 2016, a fire swept the block, destroying nine businesses and bringing foot traffic to an abrupt end. Esparza had to do something drastic.
In 2018, he opened a cannabis dispensary where his bar had been. The neighborhood, also known as La Lengua, which separates the Mission from Bernal Heights, has seen POC-owned businesses rapidly replaced by craft cocktail bars, cafés, and microbreweries. Today, La Corona serves as a community oriented storefront, a refreshing break from the Mission’s growing uniformity. Esparza pays homage to the rich history of the neighborhood in everything from the store’s hiring practices to its decor, while catering to both long-time residents and wealthy white transplants.
His roots and the history of this space are immediately apparent when you walk in the door. The floors are lined with black and white Spanish tile, the windows are covered with decorative wrought iron bars, and a mural of a man smoking in a sombrero covers one full wall. It’s clear that aesthetics matter here. Our host, a security guard doing double duty at the front desk on a slow Wednesday afternoon, introduced the shop as one part dispensary, one part art gallery, where sales go directly to local artists.
The space practically begs to be photographed, but somethings are off limits — a lesson we learned the hard way. We checked with our greeter, as we always do, to make sure they allow photos inside. He gave us the go ahead with one exception:
“If you take a picture of me, make sure you get my good side.”
After signing in we headed into the showroom. There was a small line, so we browsed the space, documenting as we waited. After recording some truly garbage video of holographic celebrity mug shots, we turned our attention to a set of clones growing in an aquarium. As we focused in on one of the plants, an obviously annoyed budtender shouted across the room.
“Yo! Man, what are you doing? You can’t take pictures of that!”
We were immediately jerked out of the mellow high that had been percolating since lunch. We apologized, repeating what our host had said at the door and the budtender quickly returned the apology.
We tried to shake it, but our first encounter in the showroom set the tone for the rest of our visit. The fact that we were stoned on entry only amplified our awkwardness. From then on our interaction consisted of a couple of half-hearted attempts at humor, plenty of uncomfortable silence, and three pairs of averted eyes. Our budtender seemed as embarrassed as we were.
When it came time to actually order something, we found ourselves at a loss, so we asked for a recommendation. The shop’s in-house, Honeyleaf pre-rolls are only $6 a pop, so we grabbed one of each. We also picked up a Lagunitas High-fi Hops infused sparkling water and a Jack Herer Pax pod from Happy Sticks, which, frankly, tastes like all-purpose cleaner -- not really our thing.
Overall, the menu at La Corona is weighted toward vapes. The bud selection is on the lean side, as are pre-roll options. Depending on the day, you might catch a few big names and recognizable strains, but if you’re looking for something specific, you’ll want to check their “live menu” online before coming in.
Despite a jarring introduction, we aren’t ruling La Corona out. The prices are reasonable, the service is serviceable, and the interiors offer a welcome departure from the reclaimed wood and white subway tiles that have become staples of the Mission’s gentrified spaces. In a city dominated by Silicon Valley aesthetics and cut-throat capitalism, it’s refreshing to see someone doing things differently. If you’re in the neighborhood and looking to support local, POC-owned businesses (as you should) it’s worth checking out. Just make sure you get explicit clearance before busting out the selfie stick.
* Editor’s note: It’s still common for dispensaries and consumption lounges to prohibit photography, some shops realize the power of the selfie in a post-prohibition world. Some dispensaries are upfront about their policies, while others, like La Corona, don’t post signs or give warning. If you’re unsure, always ask before you snap and remember, for some people, marijuana is still a touchy subject. Don’t take pictures of employees or other customers unless they give you express permission.