With beautiful beaches and sprawling trails, a rich maritime history, and an Art Deco architectural theme that serves as the town’s connecting ribbon and regional demarcation, Alameda, California, is a quiet village that balances the allure of urban cultural influence with cozy small-town vibes. The quaint Oakland suburb is intimate, affluent, and eclectic, and its retailers work hard to uphold that distinctive charm.
In order to stand out while earning genuine local acceptance, downtown dispensary Park Social leaned into the town’s long-standing aesthetic, bringing to life a historical retail location that is nostalgic for natives, novel for newcomers, and regarded as a safe space for exploring the plant and its benefits the Alameda way.
Consumers will recognize this effort the moment they step through the doors and drink in the stunning interior design.
Often cited as one of the safest municipalities in California, Alameda’s island community is known for its destination restaurants, quirky coffee shops, and boutique shopping experiences that now include cannabis. The location came first for Park Social owners Aaron Kraw and Justin Jarin, who both were born and raised on the island. The pair was determined to pay homage to that upbringing by reviving a 1946 downtown diner—previously a beloved local staple. As a result, the area’s older generation of citizens and newcomers alike have flocked to Park Social, where they can peruse popular cannabis products in a classic Alameda downtown storefront.
“The building’s facade acted as the anchor for the jumping-off point of our inspiration, both for the interior design and the development of the company’s branding,” said SevenPoint Interiors Head of Design Randy Simmen, who helped bring the dispensary’s concept to life alongside his colleague Desmond Chan, the firm’s creative director.
The location is a premier example of community tradition. With modernized 1930s and ’40s commercial architecture that can be found throughout the city’s downtown area, the owners really wanted to make inspirational references to the famous Alameda Theatre in the dispensary’s interior.
“Alameda is a historical city when it comes to architecture; it’s all inspired by the naval base, the Victorian age, and Art Deco buildings,” Kraw said. “We’re situated between San Francisco and Oakland, but people from all over the world still come here to check out the city. Park Social is on the eastern side, which has a lot of older buildings. The old downtown theater was recently refurbished to bring back that classic original look, so we positioned what we were doing to showcase that look and style.”
Kraw and Jarin kept the region’s dominant demographic in mind: older generations who might not be too familiar with the modern cannabis industry but definitely are well-versed in old-school Alameda culture.
“We wanted to provide the locals with a place they’d feel comfortable shopping in, more of a classic look as opposed to the bright, modernized shops we see all over the country today,” Jarin said. “With that goal in mind, we’ve been able to maximize our space and give people a comfortable shopping experience that feels curated and boutique.”
The owners’ objective was a perfect fit for the SevenPoint Interiors team, who’ve designed many dispensaries with unique, diverse, and defining personalities. After working with the Park Social team to create a mood board, the designers dove right into the theme, making sure to prioritize the community throughout the process.
“The locals were number one for the Park Social team; they really wanted to support their community by having a place where people can come in and feel comfortable and elevated,” Chan said. “We wanted to make sure we set a mood in the store, so we opted for warm yellow lighting. All the fixtures and showcases are strategically placed to create a welcoming atmosphere from the moment you walk in.”
The initial conversations resulted in a striking design featuring floating metal and glass display cases; a creamy-rose-and-emerald palette applied in geometrical splashes to calm the boldness of brass and wood; and Art Deco-inspired fonts that punctuate the space and marry its battling energies. Although the dispensary was created with Alameda locals in mind, the interior design is captivating enough to draw in a wider crowd, including Berkeley and Oakland residents who hop on the ferry and visit Park Social for its reasonable prices, relaxed ambiance, and a customer journey designed for both convenience and an aura of exclusivity.
“When people come in, they’re in awe,” Jarin said. “They love the architectural designs we chose, and they like to take their time browsing around. We encourage visitors to soak in that experience and enjoy Park Social in the same way they’d stroll through a department store.”
The customer journey is much like that at any other dispensary: Visitors are greeted at the door, informed about the deals of the day, and guided toward the nearest budtender.
“We really try to provide an at-home experience that encourages people to stay a while,” Kraw said. “We also have a side patio where we host events with local art and music vendors, essentially using that space to blend cannabis with the local culture that surrounds us. We try to do that once a month. We’re also really into giving back to our community, and we get involved with other downtown businesses in ways I haven’t seen other dispensaries in the area do.”
To amplify local artistic collaboration, the Park Social team added candles, crystals, books, incense, ashtrays, and other curated merchandise to the shop’s everyday product assortment—something to catch people’s attention while also disarming any remaining stigma that might cause inexperienced consumers to hesitate before walking through a dispensary’s front door. The team also participates in every event the downtown area puts on, like the Art and Wine Faire in July and the Alameda Night Market in December. Their mission is to integrate the store with the other businesses locals already trust and love, adding Park Social to the arsenal of downtown pastimes that are fun for everyone (over the age of twenty-one, that is). In the owners’ minds, the dispensary provides a memorable space where their moms, friends, friends’ moms, and moms’ friends can come together and safely explore the world of cannabis through a recognizable lens.’
“Cannabis can still be a really sensitive topic in certain areas, but we’re confident that adding what we have to the typical store setting can inspire other city councils to feel more open to cannabis, too,” Jarin said. “Park Social just isn’t your typical weed shop, and it would be great to see the brand represented throughout the state and country.”
Jarin and Kraw are in the process of expanding Park Social’s outdoor space to allow onsite consumption, as Alameda is one of eight cities in California with an ordinance that allows the practice. They plan to have that area open within the next six to eight months.
“No other dispensary in the region has the space to provide onsite consumption, so the fact that we already have it available gives us a major edge on anyone else in the city,” Jarin said. “And being in the downtown area, there are restaurants, bars, and movie theaters, and people want the option to come by and consume before they kick off date night. We’ve already gotten a lot of positive feedback from local vendors and brands who are interested in getting involved.”