Article by Paul Morden, Stratford Beacon Herald
Lambton County’s first licensed cannabis store is now open in Grand Bend.
The Bend Cannabis Co. received its licence on Dec. 12 and opened its doors the following week at 19 Main St. on the community’s main commercial strip, said owner Laura Bradley.
It’s currently offering curbside service and delivery, following the province’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’ve been busier than I anticipated, to be honest, being in Grand Bend in the winter,” Bradley said.
“The locals have been so supportive” and welcoming, she added. “A lot of them were eagerly waiting for me to open.”
Bradley said she originally planned on opening during Grand Bend’s busy summer season, but interest from local residents led to her open earlier.
“I’m pretty much open with just a curated menu for the locals, based off their requests,” she said. “And then, in the summertime, we’ll get a big inventory and do a big grand opening for the summer crowd.”
Bradley, who said she has a background in management in the licensed cannabis industry, was born in Korea and adopted as an infant by a Canadian family. They spent summers in the Grand Bend area while she was growing up in London.
“I’m just excited to be here and so thankful for the opportunity,” she said.
Ontario announced in late 2019 it was abandoning its lottery system for cannabis retail, moving to an open licensing system and removing a cap on the number of private cannabis stores across the province.
Bradley said she had entered earlier lotteries and then applied as soon as the open licensing system began.
Originally, she expected to be licensed in April and then the date moved to February, before being changed again to December after the province moved to speed up the licensing process.
In the summer, the provincial government told the Alcohol and Gaming Commission that regulates the industry in Ontario to double the number of retail store authorizations each month from 20 to 40, and then ordered it doubled again to 80 a month.
The commission said 332 authorized cannabis stores are now open in Ontario and approximately 1,400 retail store authorization applications have been submitted.
Bradley said local residents were interested in the store’s progress and renovations at the location that had been a jam and gift shop
“The building has a lot of history, which is pretty cool,” she said. “It used to be the post office.”
Bradley said she’s currently manning the store herself but has begun looking for staff.
“I’m really hoping that some of the locals will be interested in coming to work for us,” she said.
The store is currently open Monday to Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., and will have extended hours in the summer.
Bradley said a second location for The Bend Cannabis Co. is set to open in Toronto’s Kensington Market in February.
There’s currently an application listed on the commission’s website for another cannabis retail store in Grand Bend. True North Cannabis is seeking approval to open a store at 31 Ontario St. N.