Permit Issues May Delay Opening Of Happy Herb Shop

Permit Issues May Delay Opening Of Happy Herb Shop
Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
By Steven Bracco - Published on February 03, 2015.

The retail space on 4079 18th St., formerly occupied by Outfit, will not sit vacant for too long. The Happy Herb Shop, an alternative medicine store, has already started moving in.

Founded in Australia by Ray Thorpe, The Happy Herb Shop's mission statement is "[promote] the appreciation, information, benefits, culture, use and availability of all natural plants and herbs." The Happy Herb Shop, which can now be franchised, has over 40 locations in Australia and one in the United States. Currently the only US location is in Ukiah, CA.

Hoodline stopped by to speak with franchise owner Cynthia Nelson, who also owns and operates the store's Ukiah location. Nelson said she was very excited to sign her lease and open up another shop right in the heart of the Castro. Having moved down from Ukiah to look for a potential location to open up shop, she had almost given up and started to shift her search to Portland, Oregon instead. She likes to think that it was serendipity that this location opened up when it did.

While there's plenty of work to do inside the store, Nelson told Hoodline with a huge smile on her face, she said she would like to have the store open by mid-February. 

In all the excitement of opening up a new business, Nelson seemed unaware of the necessity to apply for Conditional Use Authorization for formula retail operations. Happy Herb Store store fits into San Francisco’s Formula Retail rules which state that any store with more than 11 locations worldwide must apply for Conditional Use Authorization. Working with both Supervisor Scott Wiener's Office and the SF Planning Dept, SF Planning Senior Policy Advisor AnMarie Rodgers confirmed that no application for Conditional Use had been submitted even though it is required.

SF Planning Dept. staff member Moses Corrette told Hoodline that, "protocol is to collect Formula Retail Affidavits even if in the negative, with all building permits. If the proposed shop does not need to construct anything, they may not be aware of the Planning Code requirements for formula retail controls; however, they would need sign permits." Corrette said that someone from the Planning Dept. will be sent out to collect the affidavits.

One reason that may have contributed to this oversight is that Nelson did not apply for permits for the construction work being done inside the store. The Department of Building Inspection confirmed that there have been no permits taken out for the construction currently in progress.

Both of these issues can be remedied and will need to be resolved before she can open the business.

The Happy Herb Shop would likely be a welcome addition to the neighborhood because it increases the diversity of retail options in the neighborhood. (There is currently no retail space dedicated to natural herbal remedies in the Castro.) Recently, businesses like Soul Cycle, Mary’s at the Patio and Philz Coffee, all of which are considered Formula Retail, have been approved through the city's formula retail approval process. Because Nelson would provide a service that currently does not exist in the neighborhood, it's unlikely that she would receive opposition to opening her business.
According to its website, the Happy Herb Shop will "supply a range of herbs and exclusive herbal products that improve well-being by doing it in a fun, friendly, passionate way. The company is 'not-just-for profit', supporting multitude of humanitarian, ecological and activist causes." You can expect to see a wide range of products from energy boosters to relaxing blends, addiction interrupters, mood enhancers, aphrodisiacs and health tonics.

It's important to Nelson that people realize that the Happy Herbal Shop is not a medical marijuana dispensary, instead it's a place for people looking for an alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs.

Each Herb Shop location is operated independently and it is up to each one to choose which charitable organizations it would like to support. Nelson stated that she's interested in getting involved with a local neighborhood group but she'd like to take some time to settle in and get to know the neighborhood before deciding how she'd like to give back. On first look, she thinks that partnering with the clean and sober gathering place the Castro Country Club could be a good fit.

When speaking with Nelson, she told Hoodline that she expected to hire a small group of people to help her in the store. If you’ve got experience and you're interested in joining her team, stop by and drop off a resume.