If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
That’s what former bar owner Jorge Esparza is doing by giving up his liquor license for a dispensary license — transitioning from a bartender to a budtender.
After operating the Coronitas Bar and Grill at 3326 Mission St. in the Mission for nearly three decades, business slowed. So he closed, renovated and, this week began a soft opening for his chic marijuana dispensary. The grand opening is on Thursday, June 7.
“I’ve been here so long, 26 years, people already know me,” Esparza said. “I’m like a permanent fixture of this neighborhood.”
Others were not so permanent. Customers and many in the Latino community he had long served have moved out of the neighborhood.
When the June, 2016, fire hit at 29th and Mission streets, closing several of the local businesses, he felt it was time for a change. So when the opportunity came to get into the cannabis business, he jumped. Pretty high, actually.
Renovations for La Corona Wellness Center cost roughly $300,000, according to Esparza. He says he was able to float the expense with savings and credit and hopes to see a return in the next few years.
For now, La Corona Wellness Center is licensed to serve medical marijuana to those 18 years of age and older. He says they are getting their recreational state license in the coming weeks and then will be able to sell to those 21 years of age and older.
Esparza aims to service the remaining Latino community, as well as cater to neighborhood newcomers. He says he’s committed to hiring locals and using his space for local artists to display and sell their art.
At the end of the first year, he plans to donate $50,000 of proceeds to local nonprofits. Some of those funds will benefit organizations such as Carnaval and the Mission Language and Vocational School, which he attended when he was younger.