Hello Cannabis CEO Stephen Verbeek says his Hamilton-based company could open the doors to Sault Ste. Marie’s first cannabis retail store as early as the first week of March.
On Saturday, Hello Cannabis officially announced its upcoming launch in Sault Ste. Marie, where it will lease two units at 317 Northern Avenue East - one for immediate use as a retail space, and another unit intended for a potential expansion in the future.
“I’d love to give to a range - just because there’s so many variables that can still change between now and then, I certainly don’t want to mislead people, because we really want to be a part of this community, and not come out right off the gate making promises we can’t keep,” Verbeek told SooToday Sunday evening. “It does look like we’re going to opening the first week of March.”
“We have had a few pushbacks due to some concerns with construction, but we are hoping to open in the first week of March.”
Hello Cannabis will employ more than 20 people at its Northern Avenue East business - 20 of those hired, Verbeek says, are locals.
Hello Cannabis received more than 600 job applications from people looking for employment at its Sault Ste. Marie location.
From those applications, more than 100 people were interviewed for jobs.
Upper management is located in Toronto and Hamilton, but will be visiting Sault Ste. Marie in order to educate and train employees.
Verbeek says Hello Cannabis will carry dried cannabis flower and oils, along with vapes, edibles and other derivatives, and that he would easily put the top-five strains from Hello Cannabis up against the top-five strains of any illegal cannabis dispensary.
“One huge advantage that we have at Hello Cannabis is we were one of the first operating medical cannabis clinics in the country, so we had contracts with about 27 different licenced producers,” he said. “We knew their product like the back of our hand.”
“As opposed to just seeing names and numbers, we could actually associate it with a product that we already had feedback on. We’ve got a very good idea and a lot of data points on what products we like that the public like, and the price ranges that correspond with that.”
Hello Cannabis originally opened one of the province’s first cannabis retail stores in Dundas, Ont., but ultimately decided against renewing its contract with the AGCO lottery winner the company had partnered with.
“It was not an easy job for any of the cannabis consultants-slash-companies that partnered with these lottery winners, so we are looking at exclusively opening up stores that are under our control and discretion,” said Verbeek. “Right now, Sault Ste. Marie will be the first store that we owned outright, and we have plans to open up 10 more by the end of the year.”
Verbeek says Hello Cannabis is currently exploring potential locations in northern Ontario and the Golden Horseshoe region.
“I think Sault Ste. Marie is going to see the best of us, and we’re very excited because we were able to claim that we were the number one peer-reviewed store in Ontario, and I couldn’t think of a better team that wants to join, be a part of, and integrate into the Sault Ste. Marie culture,” he said. “We are a corporation, but we are a community-driven, very tight group of citizens that live and breathe the communities that we’re a part of.”
“This is not a Blockbuster, this is not a faceless corporation that’s backed by Bay Street money. These are successful entrepreneurs that are extremely well respected in the Hamilton community.”