Article by James Hopkin, Soo Today
There’s less than two weeks to go before Hello Cannabis opens its doors in Sault Ste. Marie, and that has both management and ownership budding with anticipation.
On Friday, owner and licence lottery winner Tom Miszuk, who is in partnership with Hello Cannabis, confirmed the city’s first retail cannabis store will open to the public Friday, March 6 at 10 a.m.
“We’re at the five yard line right now, and we got four downs to punch it in. We’re not going to go into overtime,” Miszuk told SooToday.
The news comes after the City of Sault Ste. Marie filed a submission with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) outlining its concerns with the store’s proximity to Soo Pee Wee Arena during the AGCO public hearing period.
“We did all our stuff through a legal source, and we were confident that we had no breaches of anything that the city or the AGCO was demanding of the regulations,” said Miszuk, who received approval from AGCO just over a week ago. “We’re opening in the correct place.”
Local employees receive week of training
The 20 local employees hired by Hello Cannabis were in training at Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre all last week, using educational materials developed in-house by the company.
Hello Cannabis CEO Stephen Verbeek says the company’s training program drew on, in part, from its own trial and error in opening its first cannabis retail store in Dundas, Ont.
“We were able to learn from some of our mistakes prior, and fortunately, we were able to build our own proprietary training program, and we have a full team that was able to come in here and spend an entire week with the local Sault Ste. Marie population that we hired,” he said.
Verbeek – who has been representing the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as a cannabis advisor – was joined by general manager Frank Germana and education and content development director Amber Johnson, who notably instructed the first course to focus on medical cannabis for business professionals at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont.
The trio gave Sault-based employees a crash course on product knowledge, standard operating procedures, and how to maintain compliance during last week’s training sessions.
“We’re anticipating the Sault Ste. Marie store to launch even smoother, and for Sault Ste. Marie to get an even better experience than we had in Dundas, which was actually the number one peer-reviewed store in the province – so we’re elated that we were able to be one of the first entrants in here,” said Verbeek. “In my opinion we absolutely knocked it out of the park the first time, and we were able to even improve that further and have a wholly dedicated team for an entire week to train the staff here.”
Locally sourced solutions
Assistant store manager and Saultite Leeann Charrette tells SooToday that on top of all the local hires, all of the new store’s infrastructure was sourced here in the Sault.
“This store actually used everybody local, from their building products to their painters. Anything that needed to be in the store was local,” said Charrette. “The only people that came in from outside [were] the educators and the trainers.”
Waiting on Cannabis 2.0
Although Hello Cannabis will be stocked with flowers and oils, management and ownership says it’s still waiting on the arrival of products known as Cannabis 2.0 – which will include a number of edibles, vapes, topicals, extracts and beverages – due to shortfalls in the province’s supply.
“Right now there’s only gummies and some cookies and some edibles available right now. The derivatives are not available right now – your hashes, your butters and those other derivatives that you can buy,” Miszuk said.