Article by Tom Morrison, Chatham This Week
Chatham-Kent cannabis users soon won’t have to travel to Windsor or London, or use the province’s online store, after the first legal dispensary in the municipality opens Saturday.
The We Store, at 427 St. Clair St., Unit 5A, is set to become Chatham’s first cannabis retail outlet about 22 months after the substance was legalized in Canada.
The store is being run by Windsor businessman Rob Katzman. He said both himself and general manager Moe Zahid, also from Windsor, feel “really excited” about Chatham.
“I grew up working at a store in Chatham when I was a kid,” Katzman said. “We feel a kinship to Chatham. It’s the same kind of people (as Windsor). It’s the same kind of market.”
Following legalization, Ontario started out with a lottery system to open the initial retail stores in the province. Chatham-Kent was shut out of both rounds.
London was able to open a few stores and Windsor’s first opened at the end of March.
After the province ended the lottery system earlier this year and opened up applications to anyone who could meet the requirements, submissions for cannabis stores in Chatham-Kent began to come in. The COVID-19 pandemic added to the delays.
Zahid said they believe that Chatham is often overlooked.
“People undermine the city, but the city has got a lot to offer. One of the reasons why it took so long to get it (to open) here is for that reason,” he said.
“We really fought to get here and to bring us to the city, so that was the big thing for us.”
According to an Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario spokesperson, the store will have to pass a final inspection once the product arrives before it can open.
Six other applications for Chatham are currently before the AGCO. They include: Bud Bank at 445 Richmond St., Friendly Stranger Chatham at 877 St. Clair St., Unit D-8, Pluto Plants at 598 Queen St., Herbologi at 138 King St. W., Unit 102, Higher Limits Cannabis Company at 170 McNaughton Ave. W., Unit 9 and Willy’s 420 Supplies at 143 King St. W.
Blenheim has two applications in progress: Higher Limits Cannabis Company at 52 Catherine St., Unit 4 and Shiny Bud Cannabis Co. Blenheim at 63B Talbot St. W.
Katzman said he doesn’t make decisions in this industry based on how many stores will be opening in a community because every municipality “is going to be crowded.”
“Our competition is not from the stores,” Zahid added. “It’s from the illicit market, it’s from the black market. Other stores opening up, we work as a team for the most part.”
Katzman, who is known in Windsor for Katzman Enterprises and the adult entertainment lounges it owns, said he’ll be managing the store for owners DeeAnn Cervini, Davide Petretta and his wife Alissa. He also owns Greentown Cannabis in Windsor with his son Sam.
He originally opened cannabis outlets in Alberta, which was quicker than Ontario in allowing brick and mortar stores to open.
Although the western province still greatly surpasses Ontario in the number of stores, Katzman said he believes that Ontario is now ahead “on what counts to the customers.”
“There is no comparison to the product here and the product in Alberta,” he said. “We have so much more to please customers.”
Zahid and Katzman said The We Store will carry the various types of cannabis products currently on the legal market, including dry flower, edibles, beverages, oils, topicals, extracts and disposable vapes.
“What’s great about this industry and the products is not all weed is the same,” Zahid said. “They have different tastes and different flavours and different effects on the body.”
Customers will be able to place orders in store or submit an order on the website, www.thewestore.com, for pickup. The store will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The managers hired 15 locals, according to Zahid. He said the budtenders have gone through training to help customers decide which products to try.
Zahid said they will be suggesting Health Canada’s advice to start low and go slow for anyone who may be new to cannabis.