Article by Abby Hughes, Orillia Matters
After half a year of waiting for the go-ahead from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Miss Jones Cannabis Co. opened their doors at Peter and Mississaga streets this week.
Store manager Jesse Smith says the shop has been busy despite opening during the 28-day provincial lockdown.
“(The opening) went really well, I’d say it definitely exceeded expectations,” says Smith.
Eight staff members work at the Orillia location selling dried flower, pre-rolls, topicals, edibles and more. Orders can be placed on their website or at the business’s open front door, and then picked up at the door or delivered to customers’ homes.
Passersby and neighbouring businesses alike have offered their congratulations on the opening, Smith says.
“It’s unfortunate we had to open without actually being able to welcome customers into our store, but I think it’s been very well received from the community,” says Smith.
Having opened the first two Miss Jones locations in Toronto since May – one on Fort York Boulevard and one on Queen Street – Smith says their team has become accustomed to unveiling stores during the pandemic.
With five more shops slated to open in St. Catharines, Brantford, Barrie, North Bay and Cambridge within the next few months, development and marketing director Victoria Simmerling says the company is growing quickly.
She says the saturation of Toronto’s cannabis market prompted the company to expand stores to under-serviced communities throughout the province.
Smaller towns fit well with the company’s aim to make shoppers feel comfortable and take extra time in store to learn about what they’re buying, according to Simmerling.
“With cannabis being a very new product in the legal market, there’s a lot of questions. There’s just a lot to choose from which can sometimes be overwhelming,” says Smith. “Feeling really comfortable to spend more time in the store and ask more questions … helps to educate (people) and remove the stigma from cannabis.”
Despite the welcome Smith says he’s received at the store, some still believe a main corner of the downtown isn’t meant for a cannabis shop.
Longtime downtown business owner and city councillor Ralph Cipolla objected to the store’s location in May of 2020, and says his opinion hasn’t changed.
Since May, Cipolla has received 17 more calls about Miss Jones, bringing the total number of calls from concerned citizens to 37.
Provincial laws bar cannabis retailers from having window displays, which Cipolla says play a big role in attracting customers to a shopping area.
“I’m not against the pot shops whatsoever … but my retail experience tells me that a really nice window that displays the products attracts more people and tourists to the downtown,” says Cipolla.
Owner of Perfect Timing, Rick Brownbill, says he tends to agree with Cipolla.
“This type of store I don’t think is conducive to the type of clientele we generally wish to appeal to in our downtown core.”
That clientele, Brownbill says, is Orillia’s tourist population in the summer, and a generally older local population.
Simmerling says the company spent a lot of time creating a window design they believe is inviting while still following Ontario guidelines. As for the location, she says setting up shop on the outskirts of the downtown only furthers the stigma around cannabis.
“That location is a prime location for any business in Orillia, and to us the business of cannabis is a business just like a clothing store,” says Simmerling.
“It’s better than having a building sit empty, and what they’ve done to the storefront and the corner looks beautiful,” says Nicole Birch of Studio Eleven, citing the building’s vacancy after Lucky Devil Tattoos & Piercings closed.
Cipolla notes that explaining the drug to children is difficult as well. “How do I tell them it’s legal, yet we’re (saying) don’t smoke because it causes cancer?” says Cipolla.