San Jose Dispensary Debuts Throwback Carhop Service

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NorCal’s Caliva is turning back the clock by offering cannabis sales brought right to your vehicle.  

Over the Labor Day weekend, the concept of the carhop was reborn at one California dispensary. Sadly, there was no Fonzie or Richie Cunningham to yuk it up (that’s a “Happy Days” reference, young ones), but the spirit of occasion was definitely one in the spirit of beloved nostalgia blasts.

In a nod to the jukeboxes and revved engines of 1950s Americana, San Jose’s Caliva has debuted a CarHop service. In a press release announcing the new program, the popular California cannabis company detailed how customers can now drive into the store’s parking lot, check-in with a concierge, and then order from a curbside “wellness consultant.”

As a means of ensuring COVID-19 safety protocols are being followed, consultants will be equipped with iPads to serve as visual aids to customers during the ordering process. Once customers have finished placing a contactless order, they can expect to wait a maximum of ten minutes for their order to be fulfilled and delivered to their vehicle. While cash is accepted, patrons can also choose to pay via the app Hypur to minimize contact.

The debut of the “retro-themed service” occurred over Labor Day weekend, though a representative for Caliva confirmed the plan is currently to continue offering the service daily on a modified basis moving forward as well.

With fires raging up and down the West Coast and air quality hitting historically bad levels across the state, the conditions were thankfully suitable to continue with the CarHop service as planned. To inaugurate the program, Caliva employees were decked-out in aprons and dad hats. As an additional bonus, waiting customers were offered crossword puzzles to work on while they waited.

Topping off the hoopla was the vintage 1967 Plymouth Valiant on display as a means of celebrating the first weekend of CarHop service.

Though temperatures did surpass 100 degrees at some points, Caliva’s San Jose store reported an 18% increase in business week-over-week from Thursday, September 3 through Saturday, September 5. While most dispensaries likely experienced a surge in sales owing to the long holiday weekend — admittedly a somewhat novel concept itself in the midst of quarantine — this sizeable bump also speaks to the appeal of the CarHop concept.

In addition to hopefully bringing a splash of joy into what’s been an undeniably difficult stretch for local residents, the model employed by Caliva also speaks to what the future of in-person cannabis commerce may resemble. If curbside service with iPads inspires sales (rather than deflating them), it’s entirely possible such temporary solutions will stick.

For an example beyond the world of cannabis, look to how drive-in movie theaters have suddenly come back into vogue as a result of the pandemic.

Not only are drive-ins now largely the only way for large portions of the U.S. to see a film in public right now, they are also being repurposed by other industries equally desperate for a way to reach audiences. Last month, the metal quartet Metallica recorded a concert with no one in attendance at a winery in Sonoma. It was then screened exclusively at drive-in theaters across the country a few weeks later.

If the mood of the moment isn’t necessarily one ripe for whimsy, the novelty of Caliva’s CarHop service pales in contrast to its sensibility as something to offer. As delivery orders and curbside pick-up purchases continue to skyrocket, it’s worth remembering that both of these popular options often rely on a baseline of technology that not all cannabis consumers possess. If you don’t have a computer or a smartphone, than you might be out-of-luck when it comes to taking advantage of the safest options currently being offered by a pot shop.

The same limitations are also a factor when it comes to consultations — a critical part of the newcomer’s cannabis purchasing experience. Dispensaries offering virtual consultations is unquestionably a good thing, but again, what’s the answer for patients without access to the necessary hardware to make a FaceTime happen?

One possibility is stuff like CarHop, though extreme weather events like the one California is currently enduring offer compelling evidence that it will ultimately take many solutions combined together to truly ensure equal access to cannabis remains protected during perilous moments.

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