Cannabis entrepreneurs eyeing small-but-growing markets in Essex County to establish retail stores
'We're super excited about Windsor, we think it's an under-looked market'
Rather than trying to set up stores in crowded downtown areas or busy main streets, cannabis entrepreneurs looking to establish retail locations in Windsor-Essex and surrounding regions say they're eyeing smaller markets that provide room to grow.
The advantages, according to Philip Bradbury, CEO of the Higher Limits Cannabis Company — which has no affiliation with the similarly named Higher Limits Cannabis Lounge that ceased operations in 2018 — include less competition, as well as smaller consumer populations to service.
Bradbury said his company currently plans on opening three stores spread across Amherstburg, Blenheim and Chatham.
As a comparison, Bradbury drew attention to the fact that there are currently almost 20 stores going through their public notice period in Windsor, whereas his company is currently the only one authorised in Amherstburg.
"When you break it down, there's 300,000 people in Windsor and the surrounding area split between [almost 20 stores] and there's 20,000 people here in [Amherstburg], in a great location with one store," he said.
Though he said he doesn't believe his company's store will be the only cannabis retailer in Amherstburg, Bradbury explained that opening in the town first will provide his company with a competitive advantage.
Steven Fry, president and co-founder of Sessions Cannabis — a Hamilton-based company with retail locations in Toronto and Collingwood, and several more set to open in communities like Kitchener, Welland and Binbrook later this year — said his company has plans to open one retail store on Division Road in Windsor, as well as on Amy Croft Drive in Lakeshore.
Fry explained that his company chose Lakeshore as one of its future locations in part because of the support received by the town itself.
"Through some government relations, we found out that they're open to cannabis and open in this area," he said. "So we were very excited with that opportunity there."
As for the Windsor store, Fry said the city's status as a border city, as well as its population density, make it a prime cannabis destination.
"We're super excited about Windsor, we think it's an under-looked market," Fry said. "We do see a few stores popping up on the map, but I do think that we're going to certainly work really diligently hard to win over the hearts and minds of the consumer."
Bradbury hopes to open his company's Amherstburg location in mid-July. The Blenheim store could open as early as June, though the Chatham location will likely take longer.
The company is currently completing its public notice stage, during which members of the community are allowed to provide feedback on any potential retail store location.
Additionally, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) still needs to provide its final stamp of approval.
As for the two Sessions Cannabis locations, Fry said both the Windsor and Lakeshore locations could open within the next few months.
Like all cannabis retail stores in Ontario, the AGCO will also need to provide its approval before Sessions Cannabis can open anywhere.
With files from Jason Viau