Cannabis grower Mr. Sherbinski works his way up to Barneys

San Francisco cultivator Mario Guzman’s Sherbinskis strain of cannabis is being sold at Barney’s new in-store dispensary in Los Angeles. | Brian Feulner / Special to The Chronicle

Acclaimed San Francisco cannabis grower Mario “Mr. Sherbinski” Guzman seeded his reputation by giving potent designer cannabis to popular rappers. Now Guzman, in partnership with cannabis brand Beboe, has crafted two exclusive products for the High End, a palace of paraphernalia inside Barneys of New York in Beverly Hills.

A self-taught grower who got his start in a 6-by-5-foot space in his San Francisco home garage in the early 2000s, Guzman, 42, now tends more than 1 million square feet of greenhouse and indoor cultivation space in Mendocino County, Sacramento and Carpinteria (Santa Barbara County).

He also owns Emjay, the Oakland delivery service that will fulfill Barneys’ in-store cannabis purchases and will open his own dispensary in a high-profile location on Fairfax Boulevard in Los Angeles this summer. There he’ll feature his sought-after Gelato strains and his own line of street wear.

Guzman, who lives in Daly City, spoke by telephone during a break from meeting with his Beverly Hills design team.

Q: How did a cannabis breeder go from the underground to the upper echelon?

A: I’d met Clement Kwan of Beboe. We bonded over fashion. Clement invited me to the Business of Fashion at SoHo Farmhouse in England. I had an opportunity to speak in front of a lot of leaders in the fashion industry. It really went well. We were able to catapult that moment into this opportunity with Barneys.

Q: Why Barneys?

A: When you’re looking at a high-end brand, Barneys is a store that gives a special experience. The items are very expensive, very exclusive, out of reach for most people — a $1,000 sweatshirt, a $500 T-shirt. It’s not a store for everybody. To see our brand in Barneys is a really a huge step forward for cannabis. What Barneys is doing with their store is really just a sign of the times — a store that’s been around since 1923 recognizing cannabis as part of our lifestyle. I applaud them. Barneys is pushing the boundary for fashion, culture and cannabis.

Q: What does fashion mean to you?

A: I think it’s a great way to express yourself. What you put on can really make you feel much different day by day. It’s a unique tool for sharing a larger message. When people see you, that first impression means a lot. I’ve learned to really leverage what I wear and the images I put out to really attract the people that I want to attract. It’s fun. I enjoy coming from a totally different background and not being properly educated in fashion.

Q: Did you design a new strain exclusively for Barneys?

A: It has my Gelato genetics, but this is something unreleased. This is brand new, and this is where the designer aspect comes in. Beboe asked me to have a lower-THC product rather than a high-THC product, which is something that’s new to me, coming from a market where it’s all about the strongest and the heaviest. Beboe is marketing to a different crowd — to ladies and people who maybe haven’t had that much experience using cannabis. We used the lower-THC flower to start, then I created a Beboe Blend by Sherbinski, which has 40 percent CBD flower blended with 60 percent THC flower. Beboe Blend by Sherbinski is available in pre-rolls and vape pens.

Q: Streetwear fabrics are evolving like cannabis genetics. The $160 hoodies and $45 T-shirts you sell on are plush and embroidered. Coincidence?

A: I think people are more aware of what they’re putting on. We lead the way in cannabis fashion and streetwear luxury. It makes sense we bring the best.

Q: Are the sneakers you did with Nike — Sherbinski X Nike Air Force 1 Bespoke — still available?

A: We dropped 100 pair at a trade show in December. We sold out of 100 pair in 40 minutes. We sold them for $160 a pair. They’re now selling for $1,200 online.

Q: You called yourself “Mr. Sherbinski” to hide your identity before legalization. Did you set out to personally be a brand?

A: No, no, definitely not. At first it was just about growing good medicine. But any good brand has a story behind it; my story just happens to be growing some amazing strains in my garage during the birth of this legalization movement that started in San Francisco. I think cannabis falls in line with the amazing creative cultures created in the Bay Area, be it tech, be it music. I think that’s what’s really helped get my brand to where it is right now. People get to know me and see that the passion is real. I truly enjoy making a product that helps people but doing it with style.

Q: You made your name with Sunset Sherbet, the strain named for San Francisco’s Sunset District, where you grew it in your garage, and a favorite childhood confection. What’s Gelato’s story?

A: Gelato is another strain I made in my garage in the Sunset District in San Francisco. … Gelato became not only a local favorite but it’s known globally. It’s been mentioned in over 200 rap songs. It has a real berry, creamy smooth taste. It’s definitely a dessert kind of taste.

Q: Some underground growers did not transition to today’s regulated market. Why did you go legit?

A: About four years ago, I started to get wind of where legalization was going. I always supported it, even when friends of mine wanted to stay doing things the old way and they fought Prop. 64. To me, it’s about safe access. It’s not about how big my paycheck is. I’ve had friends who’ve lost their lives by having to do street deals and things that are fortunately coming to be a thing of the past. It’s been amazing to see the growth of the industry. I’m just happy to be part of it and represent San Francisco.