Article by Carl Hnatyshyn, Stratford Beacon Herald
Business was brisk at Sarnia’s first legal cannabis retail store as it (partially) opened its doors on Monday, Jan. 18.
Curbside pickup customers came fast and furious as soon as Bluewater Joint, a family-run cannabis store located at 940 Murphy Rd., became the first cannabis store to legally operate in Sarnia. It became the second retail cannabis store to open in Lambton County after Grand Bend’s The Bend Cannabis Co. began its run in late December.
“It’s been great,” said store owner Eleonora Plata “Our customers are very happy and our neighbours are very happy – they’ve seen us building up the store from outside, seeing the notes on the door saying that we’re hiring. The neighbourhood and the people passing by on Murphy have just been great.”
Plata said she was told by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario in December that her Sarnia store could open in mid-January. With the province’s recent announcement of a lockdown, the store can currently only offer the option of curbside pickup for its customers: people can order what they want online (www.bluewaterjoint.ca) then show up in front of the store with their credit card and photo identification to pick up their products.
During their first few days of business, a wide array of clients have come to claim their cannabis, Plata said.
“We have all sorts of people, all sorts of ages coming with various amounts of knowledge about our products. And one good thing is they can go our website and learn about the different types of products and determine what’s best for them,” she said.
The shelves of the ornately-decorated store – the newly finished interior includes a number of glass display tables, a fireplace, a vivid and colourful mural that celebrates a variety of Sarnia landmarks as well as a seating area – are stocked with a wealth of products, many of which are made in Ontario and British Columbia, Plata said.
“We have a variety of flowers, pre-rolls, vape cartridges, edibles, gummies, chocolates, we have a variety of different drinks, CBD cream and even CBD bath bombs,” she said.
“And the great thing is we’re also very open to suggestions from our customers – because we’re private, we have the luxury of choosing from all the companies. So when new products come along, we can definitely take a look at them and consider them so that we have a variety of products for our customers.”
Bluewater Joint is Plata’s second retail cannabis shop – in February 2020, she and her family opened their first store in Ancaster and in February 2021, Plata is set to open her third shop in Simcoe.
Family is the name of the game at Bluewater Joint as Plata, a former educator, her husband and two children are also involved in the day-to-day running of the business, she said.
In fact, the plan to get into the retail marijuana business in the first place was her daughter’s idea.
“It was my daughter Jess’ idea,” she said. “She convinced me to go into the lottery … and I won it on my birthday.”
Asked why she chose Sarnia as her second location, Plata said that her family has a long and fruitful history in the community, so it was with great pride that Bluewater Joint was the first cannabis store to open here.
“We’ve got family in Sarnia and they were helpful in building up this store,” she said. “And my husband Dennis, his grandparents used to own the Colborne Hotel, so we filled the mural with images of Sarnia as well as things from our own family history.
“Honestly, we’re very thankful that we’re able to open here and to open up the first one is pretty neat considering our family history here from the sixties – we already had our family in a business then and between then and now we had family members owning real flower shops in Sarnia,” Plata said with a smile. “We’ve changed from one kind of flower to another kind of flower, we like to say.”
Once the government gives the green light, Plata said she would like to have a proper grand opening for the store in the future.