Article by Doug Schmidt, Windsor Star
As other local businesses are forced to shut down — collateral damage in the war against COVID-19 — Windsor’s first legal cannabis retail store is set to open by the end of the week.
“We are classed as an essential service and as such are proceeding with plans to open as soon as possible,” said David Craig, chief design officer for J. Supply Co. In an email Wednesday, he said the new business at 545 Ouellette Ave. will open “by Friday or Saturday” subject to last-minute issues.
Not only is it the city’s first legal pot shop in Canada’s youngest industry, but he said staff is receiving additional training in order to “manage and operate the business in a safe and responsible way” during a coronavirus pandemic. Other cities that have seen such retail outlets open have experienced crowds of eager pot purchasers, but Craig said staff “in protective gear” will make sure customers are kept a safe distance apart, both outside and inside.
Hot on the heels of J. Supply’s opening, another businessman is hoping to have a second pot shop open soon in downtown Windsor, currently resembling a ghost town due to strict anti-coronavirus measures implemented by government and health authorities.
“We’re living in interesting times right now, but this is exciting for Windsor,” Sam Katzman said of his Greentown Ontario application currently before the AGCO.
Until now, Greentown’s proposed address at 74 Chatham St. W. — next door to Katzman Enterprises’s Cheetah’s strip club — was home to Pause Cafe, whose lease expires in April. A notice on the window gives the public until April 2 to comment on Katzman’s pot shop application to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
Sam’s father Rob Katzman said the current restrictions and closures imposed on businesses have been “devastating” to the family’s corporate operations in Ontario and Michigan, including Leopard’s Lounge and Alley Katz in Windsor.
“We can open up cannabis, and we can survive,” Rob said, referring to cannabis retail stores, along with LCBO outlets, listed by the province among “essential” workplaces that can remain open. “It’s amazing — they made liquor essential, and they made cannabis essential.”
Sam said he submitted his application for a retail operator’s licence within 10 minutes of the recent midnight opening by the Ford government to all such cannabis retail applicants. “It’s been a very smooth process.”
Alberta embraced private sector sales as soon as recreational marijuana became legal in Canada in October 2018. Sam headed west and opened the first pot store in Red Deer — and one of the first in Alberta — in November of that year.
“It was a very successful store,” said Sam, who sold Greentown Alberta to a publicly traded company last year. He was homesick.
“Going from my house in Windsor to my store in Red Deer took 13 hours. I was born and raised in Windsor — my family, friends, home and other business (interests) are in Windsor.”
Sam entered his name in both initial Ontario lotteries retail cannabis store licences but said he was unsuccessful.
He’s not worried about the competition with the imminent opening of J. Supply Co., or from a growing list of other Windsor pot shop hopefuls.
As of Wednesday, six Windsor cannabis retail store applications had been filed with the AGCO, with two of them at the public notice stage (Greentown and Sessions Windsor, 402-650 Division Rd.). The others: J. Supply Co.; ShinyBud Cannabis Co. at 7833 Tecumseh Rd. E; and two proposed locations for The We Store — at 1565 Wyandotte St. E. and 6038 Tecumseh Rd. E.