Cannabis store opens for busi­ness in Swift Cur­rent

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current/alberta - BYMATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepos­

The first cannabis store in Swift Cur­rent opened for busi­ness on the fi­nal day of 2018.

Dreamweave­rs Cannabis Prod­ucts Inc. is one of two pro­po­nents se­lected in a provin­cial lot­tery draw to op­er­ate a cannabis re­tail store in Swift Cur­rent.

Ce­leste and Ron Ger­ber were pleased with the first few days of busi­ness at their down­town lo­ca­tion.

“It's been brisk,” Ce­leste said. “Just like any re­tail it has its ups and downs, but it's been very brisk and what sur­prised me is the va­ri­ety of peo­ple that have come in. Pretty much every­body from every walk of life, every age group, it doesn't mat­ter. So it's been very in­ter­est­ing that way.”

Ce­leste is the pres­i­dent of Dreamweave­rs Cannabis Prod­ucts Inc. and Ron is the man­ag­ing part­ner. They ac­tu­ally held a soft open­ing with fam­ily and friends of staff on Dec. 30 to eval­u­ate their readi­ness for their for­mal open­ing to the pub­lic the next day. Ron noted that they were al­ready busy on the first day.

“For not ad­ver­tis­ing, the word got out pretty fast that we were open,” he said.

Some of the vis­i­tors just used the op­por­tu­nity to see what the first le­gal cannabis re­tail store in Swift Cur­rent looked like.

“I would say that prob­a­bly 90 per cent of the peo­ple who come in are to buy and prob­a­bly about 10 per cent are just look­ing around and cu­ri­ous, which is fine too,” Ce­leste said.

The store's in­te­rior has a modern and bright ap­pear­ance that is sim­i­lar to many other down­town busi­nesses. They wanted to cre­ate an up­scale and trendy am­bi­ence.

“We want peo­ple to be com­fort­able to come in here,” she said. “We're not quite fin­ished with all our in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tions, but we'll get there. It just takes a lit­tle bit of time.”

There is one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence to vis­it­ing an­other down­town store. Those en­ter­ing the busi­ness will be greeted by a staff mem­ber who will ask for photo ID to con­firm their age.

The in­te­rior of the store is not vis­i­ble from the street­front, which is a re­quire­ment for op­er­at­ing a cannabis re­tail store. The Dreamweave­rs Cannabis store win­dow is dec­o­rated with a graphic de­sign that serves this pur­pose.

“Health Canada doesn't want us to in­flu­ence the younger gen­er­a­tion in any way, shape or form,” she said. “We ac­tu­ally prob­a­bly only needed to take it up to about five and a half or six feet, the opaque graphic, but it would look a lit­tle odd. So we went the whole way. When we opened it was over the hol­i­day sea­son. So we never had a chance to fin­ish do­ing the door and the sign and ev­ery­thing, but that will be com­ing as well.”

The store's open­ing on the last day of 2018 was a fit­ting con­clu­sion to a roller­coaster year for the Ger­bers, who had to fol­low an ex­ten­sive process to start their new busi­ness. There was some luck in­volved too, be­cause the suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants for the 51 avail­able re­tail store per­mits in Saskatchew­an were se­lected through a lot­tery draw.

“You ac­tu­ally lit­er­ally won the lot­tery,” Ce­leste said. “So we won the cannabis lot­tery for Swift Cur­rent. ... I think there was 61 ap­pli­ca­tions for Swift Cur­rent, and so it was a three per cent chance ba­si­cally whether we won or not. We were very happy to have won that.”

In their ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion they specif­i­cally se­lected Swift Cur­rent as the lo­ca­tion where they want to have their busi­ness.

“Num­ber one was its lo­ca­tion,” she said about their choice. “It's on the high­way, it's close to the Amer­i­can bor­der and the next clos­est ar­eas around it are Moose Jaw and Maple Creek that have stores. So we'll be draw­ing from a large area.”

They have not been dis­ap­pointed with their de­ci­sion to have a busi­ness in Swift Cur­rent, and peo­ple in the city have been wel­com­ing.

“They've wel­comed us with open arms,” Ron said. “So we have only pos­i­tive things to say about the com­mu­nity.”

Both grew up in Saskatchew­an, but their ca­reers took them to Cal­gary. Ce­leste was born in Tis­dale and Ron grew up in York­ton. He worked as an ac­coun­tant in the con­struc­tion busi­ness for about 40 years, while she was an ar­chi­tec­tural tech­nol­o­gist who worked as a se­nior project man­ager for ar­chi­tec­ture firms.

“So we're both from Saskatchew­an orig­i­nally, but we raised our fam­ily in Cal­gary and even be­fore the op­por­tu­nity of hav­ing a cannabis store came up, we had been talk­ing about mov­ing back any­way,” she said. “We were tired of the rat race, we wanted to have a qui­eter life and be more con­nected to the com­mu­nity. So when this op­por­tu­nity came up, we just jumped at it.”

Their new busi­ness is cur­rently pro­vid­ing full-time em­ploy­ment to six staff mem­bers and they are plan­ning to hire some part-time staff.

“Right now Ron and I are fill­ing in,” she said. “We're just in our first week, so we're still work­ing out the bugs, but as we go along we'll take a step back.”

Cannabis re­tail stores have ex­pe­ri­enced some chal­lenges to ob­tain enough prod­uct to sell, but they feel con­fi­dent their store will con­tinue to re­ceive sup­plies.

“We ac­tu­ally de­layed our open­ing un­til we knew that we had enough prod­uct to stay open for a while and that the ship­ments would be com­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” she said. “So I think we're OK.”

Ron men­tioned that they have been or­der­ing prod­uct from dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers to en­sure suf­fi­cient stock for their open­ing.

“We deal with three or four dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers and we're get­ting enough to be able to op­er­ate with­out any prob­lems at this point,” he said.

At the same time they are not able to ob­tain all the prod­uct they would like to have avail­able in the store.

“A lot of peo­ple have come in ask­ing for CBD oil and we would like to be able to sup­ply that, but the li­censed pro­duc­ers pretty much across Canada are short on CBD oil,” she said. “So we're not get­ting that or some of the other prod­ucts that we would like to get, like the pre-rolls where you could come in and you could just buy three joints. We can't seem to get our hands on those. We are get­ting enough flower, but were just not get­ting all the dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties and stuff that we want to get.”

They are feel­ing con­fi­dent about their new busi­ness and there are still many things to take care of. Their on­line store will open soon and ad­di­tional cannabis prod­ucts, in­clud­ing ed­i­ble cannabis and cannabis ex­tracts, will legally be­come avail­able for sale in Canada on Oct. 17.

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

Dreamweave­rs Cannabis Prod­ucts Inc. Pres­i­dent Ce­leste Ger­ber stands with staff mem­ber Michael LeBlanc, who is the store's head bud­ten­der.

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