Welland’s first legal cannabis store is set for a Dec. 29 grand opening.
Sessions Cannabis, the largest retailer of legal THC products in Ontario, with five operating locations and more than 30 in the queue, will welcome its first customers locally before the new year, said co-founder and president Steven Fry.
He said the store will “make history” when it opens at Fitch Street Plaza at the end of the month, next to the LCBO store that will move to a new store in northeast Welland next year.
Having a grand opening in a pandemic, when Niagara sits at the province’s orange level but could be moving into red, will be taken care of properly, Fry said.
“Luckily for us, we have a lot of experience managing COVID protocols.”
In April 2019 Sessions Cannabis opened the first legal dispensary in Hamilton and since then has established another in the city, as well as Toronto, Collingwood and Cambridge.
Stores in Orillia, Oshawa and North York and in the Windsor area are opening this month as well.
The cannabis chain has secured a property in Port Colborne, but is waiting for its approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. This application is not listed on the AGCO website.
Sessions also hopes to set up shop in Fort Erie.
Fry said his company is excited about its venture in the Rose City.
“From our research, Welland has a great cannabis market,” said Fry, a Brock University graduate and former Niagara Region employee who worked on marketing campaigns related to recycling in the early 2000s.
The store will be open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
When cannabis stores move into neighbourhoods, it’s not uncommon to hear from opposing residents. Fry hopes any skepticism in Welland from the public will soon be healed.
“A lot of people have reservations, but we’re here to educate the community,” he said.
“When people come into our stores, they quickly change their understanding,” he added, referring to them being well-lit, clean and in compliance with strict protocols for minors, as well as the pandemic.
Ten staff positions are being advertised online, said Fry, adding employees from other locations will likely be there for the Dec. 29 grand opening.
The store will have to “scale up” in early 2021, he said.
Including Sessions, Welland has nine cannabis store applications before the AGCO.