Article by Bill Jackson, Waterloo Chronicle
Waterloo’s first retail cannabis store, Bud & Sally, opened with high hopes on Friday, March 13.
“What could go wrong?” reads a wryly written press release, announcing Monday that the uptown store has been bought by Meta Growth, one of the country’s largest retail cannabis operations.
Back in July, Meta announced it had executed a share purchase agreement to acquire the Bud & Sally recreational cannabis retail store for total cash consideration of $1.15 million.
The acquisition was subject to Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario approval and closed in late August.
According to a press release, the Bud & Sally Cannabis Co. store achieved $172,385 in weekly revenue for the week ended Aug.15, with a 37.2 per cent gross margin.
Representatives with Meta weren’t immediately available to say what the plans are for the new location or whether it would be rebranded or reformatted any time soon.
Outgoing Bud & Sally operator John Radostits, an Alberta businessman, said jobs totalling about 20 are being retained at the Waterloo location, which was one of his main concerns before leaving.
“Bud and Sally will continue to provide the same great service with the same great people,” he said.
It was Radostits’ wife who won the licence for the Waterloo location.
The store offered the widest selection of cannabis products in the province and was performing well near the end, he said.
It was featured by the Ontario Cannabis Store as one of three retailers that made their mark in 2020.
But Radostits said COVID-19 took its toll on their aspirations to build the brand in Ontario.
Its opening on March 14 was overshadowed by concern. Then, thousands of post-secondary students moved home.
Cannabis stores were forced to close in early April after not making the list of essential businesses that could remain open, and with the store being new it didn’t qualify for any federal or provincial government subsidy programs.
This left the business with no option but to lay off 25 of 28 staff.
“We quickly pivoted and focused the business to online sales. We rebuilt our website and bolted together a fully operational online retail offering and started selling online,” Radostits said.
“As things changed, we changed, but we stayed alert and vigilant.”
The store partnered with other “open but struggling” local businesses to support each other, sharing Instagram posts and contests.
“But we had an opportunity, and that was about an ability and potential to build a brand in southwestern Ontario,” said Radostits, whose background includes building the largest franchisee group under the Sobeys banner in Canada, before selling it back to the national grocery giant.
“I would say with all the dynamics and the changes I felt that opportunity had dwindled to the point that the best thing for the brand and the team was to join a big organization,” Radostits told the Chronicle.
“It’s one of those things you never know what is before you, and you respond and react as you go.”
According to a new release last month, Meta Growth Corp. and High Tide Inc. entered into a definitive arrangement agreement in which High Tide will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Meta Growth. Meta Cannabis Co., Meta Cannabis Supply Co. and NewLeaf Cannabis retail stores will be joining the High Tide retail enterprise network.
The companies say they are merging to create a behemoth with 63 locations across Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well as $133 million in annual revenue.
It is expected that, subject to receipt of all regulatory, court, shareholder and other approvals, the merger will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2020. Growth plans include nearly doubling the existing footprint to approximately 115 locations by the end of 2021, with a focus on Ontario, Canada’s largest cannabis market.
Meta announced that it had also executed an asset purchase agreement to acquire the Meta Cannabis Co. branded recreational cannabis store in Kitchener.