Beer stores and LCBO locations are almost clinical in their appearance, providing customers with little more than a transactional space in which to pick up their favourite government-regulated alcoholic beverages. However, that warehousing model is being challenged and reshaped by the cannabis retail industry, where new owners given a blank slate are opening some exceptionally well-designed and decorated locations.
Take Robert Carroll, for example, who is part of a father/son team that recently opened the first Due North Cannabis Co. location in Sault Ste Marie. The Churchill Plaza cannabis shop features a spacious cottage-style interior décor complete with tongue-and-groove wood panelling, eight-inch timber beams and a 42-inch gas fireplace. It’s part of a conscious effort by the owners to create an inviting and relaxing atmosphere for cannabis shoppers.
“We wanted to create a brand that was representative of Canadians, especially here in Northwestern Ontario,” said Carroll. “When you come into our stores it actually looks like the inside of a timber frame cottage or camp.”
Carroll said that creating a unique and inviting retail space was critical to their business plan given the stigmas and misinformation that still surround legalized cannabis sales in Canada.
“With our stores, we wanted to create something people could relate with,” he said. “Our goal is to be more inviting and less transactional in nature. Many cannabis shops have a similar experience; you get in, you talk to somebody, and you get out. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to create a space that was both engaging and inviting. A space where customers feel empowered to learn, discover and explore. Ultimately I wanted to create a store my grandmother would be comfortable walking into.”
Cannabis consuming grandmothers aside, the father/son team say they are keen on further investing in the Sault and plan on opening more locations locally later this year.
“We call the Sault our home which makes us proud to be making these investments locally. Our hope is that the cannabis industry will provide economic benefits to the city while enriching the lives of residents as regulated cannabis sales begin to outpace the black market.”
To contribute to their success, the Carroll’s are highly focused on using local talent and materials whenever possible. They worked with a number of local partners to get their location built, and all Due North Cannabis stores will feature a “Support Local” section.
“We have a very big focus on education and supporting local Canadian companies,” said Carroll. “We have an entire section of the store dedicated to Canadian made products, and we offer a support local wall to highlight local organizations. This is a platform we provide for those in the community to help local businesses like ours gain more exposure.”
Due North Cannabis officially opened January 29 with a new floor plan designed to ensure maximum compliance with COVID-19 protocols that included wider counter spaces and separate entrance/exit areas. Carroll said he’d like to see it become a destination rather than just a retail outlet.
“What we want to do is encourage people to explore for a while. Spend some time checking out our displays, look through some of our educational materials and speak to one of our Bud Guides. Come enjoy the space.”
Visit Due North Cannabis online at duenorthcannabis.com or at 150 Churchill Blvd Unit 1 in Sault Ste. Marie.