Article by Dale Carruthers, London Free Press
After being shunned for their big-city counterparts, smaller Southwestern cities are finally getting cannabis retail stores.
Nearly one year after the brick-and-mortar business began opening in Ontario, setting up shop mostly in mid-sized and large cities, operators are now setting their sights on places the size of St. Thomas (population 39,000) and Stratford (31,500).
“It’s much like any other retail. You’re looking for the biggest untapped market, not necessarily the biggest market,” said professor Michael Armstrong of the Goodman School of Business at Brock University.
“Do you go into a big city where there’s a big potential market but you’re going to have to share it with a lot of other stores, or do you go for a smaller place . . . you can have all to yourself?”
With four cannabis stores, London is the only city in Southwestern Ontario with any of the coveted outlets, though Windsor will get its first later this month. These stores were approved to open through the province’s now-nixed pot lottery system that doled out just 75 licences since the drug was legalized in October 2018.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the province’s pot regulator, is now awarding an unlimited number of retail licences — a move long championed by the industry.
Six additional stores are in the final approval stage, to open in St. Thomas, Stratford, London, Windsor and Brantford.
St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston welcomed news of Bob’s Bud Emporium planning to open on Talbot Street.
“It’s a legalized product and it’s been in high demand from a retailer’s point of view,” he said of recreational cannabis. “We welcome any retailer who wants to take up retail space in our community with open arms.”
Latest proposed cannabis stores:
- Chill Cannabis, 649 Richmond St., London
- Bob’s Bud Emporium, 483 Talbot St., St. Thomas
- Crossroads Cannabis, 618 Huron St., Stratford
- ShinnyBud Cannabis, 7833 Tecumseh Ave., Windsor
- An unnamed store, 35 Amy Croft Dr., Windsor
- Brant Cannabis Co., 117 Charing Cross St., Brantford