High Bridge Arms first opened in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco in the 1950s. The gun shop had good business, but store owner Andy Takahashi got fed up with increased regulation from the city. The store closed on Oct. 31 last year, after selling its final handgun. It was San Francisco’s last gun shop.
When it closed, Sean Killen saw an opportunity. He had been appointed to the board of a medical marijuana dispensary, just two blocks away from High Bridge Arms. The Bernal Heights Cooperative, which has been in the neighborhood for 10 years, was being evicted and the board needed to find a new home.
In July, the nonprofit weed dispensary plans to move into the infamous gun store. The dispensary will have “price points for everybody,” Killen said, as well as what’s called a “compassion program,” in which they give medical cannabis for free to those who need it and cannot afford it.
“We might not make the most money doing that, but it’s a good example to set as the industry grows,” Killen said.
Killen said he thinks of the cooperative as part of an older generation of dispensaries, which focused more on how cannabis can help the community, rather than profits.
“There are very few areas in San Francisco that are green zones,” where dispensaries are allowed to operate, Killen said in an interview. “So we needed to keep it close.”
While the city has continued to crack down on the firearms business, the legal marijuana business has been booming. Killen said that Takahashi was “thrilled, frankly” to find out that a dispensary wanted to move in. “He thought it was cool. It certainly wasn’t lost on us that the fact that it was a gun store turning into a pot collective… It just seems very San Francisco.”
The cooperative is waiting for the city to approve the space to become a medical cannabis dispensary. To respect the building’s history, the dispensary will keep the name High Bridge. “Fortunately, it works for us as well, the name High Bridge, as well as it did for them,” Killen said.