Another cannabis desert in Manitoba found an oasis this month as a new store in Russell-Binscarth opened earlier this month.
Corktown Cannabis Company opened its doors at 117 Assiniboine St. West in Russell with a soft launch on Jan. 24, but held its grand opening on Feb. 1. The company was one of seven granted permission to open a store after a lottery for licences in rural communities was held last May.
It is the third of these rural stores to open, with cannabis retailers in Swan River and Virden beating them to the punch.
Earlier this week, the Sun spoke with Corktown CEO David Jacobs about the opening of the company’s first retail outlet. He was blunt about how busy the store has been so far.
“Things were absolutely spectacular for the first day — very busy,” Jacobs said. “Then the second day was a little slower and then the third day a stray cat walked by. The fourth day, the same cat walked by the other way. That wasn’t so bad given that we didn’t even have a ‘store open’ sign up.”
He means that literally. They had forgotten to put an open sign on the front of the store and Jacobs said his partners were baffled by the slow business.
While there weren’t crowds waiting to get in, word of the store’s opening was circulating on social media and they were building up their stock.
“We went through all of our edibles almost immediately,” he said. “We went through all of our pre-rolls almost immediately.”
The pre-rolls have since come back in stock, but when the interview was conducted, edibles had yet to be restocked. However, since the interview, the store’s Facebook page has announced that edibles are once again available and their first vaping products have arrived.
“The more convenient it is, the more popular it is,” Jacobs said. “The edibles are very appealing to those who aren’t smokers and also people who are relatively new to cannabis.”
The CEO recalled an amusing story in the leadup to the store’s opening where he loaded a safe destined for the store into the trunk of a rental car in Winnipeg.
“I took off only to realize with the back of the car sinking down to the pavement that maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to have done,” he said. He carefully went to a local hardware store to buy straps so he could tie it to the roof.
“We safely unloaded it and the contractor’s comment when we took out this monster was ‘Oh, I thought it would be bigger’,” he said.
Jacobs said that the provincial government has been “incredibly helpful” in getting the business going and understanding the complex ordering process. Retailers order product through the government, but receive it directly from suppliers.
Many cannabis stores in Canada experienced supply issues when legalization first happened and once again when cannabis derivatives like vapes and edibles were legalized.
According to Jacobs, their early troubles with getting in stock have been a combination of supply problems and teething issues, but it’s getting better.
“On our grand opening (day), maybe 10 per cent of our first order was in store and that sold out very quickly,” he said. “Then it came in dribs and drabs. What we’re doing now is we’re going to order much more than we need so we always have something on hand for the customers.”
He predicts that edibles will be more difficult to keep in stock, and that it would be much the same for vapes and concentrates.
Like other cannabis retailers, Jacobs said that Corktown will soon host informational sessions put on by industry reps once the store is a little more established, although it will be in other venues in town instead of the storefront.
Corktown currently has four employees in-store, all locals. Jacobs was quick to mention that the construction of the store was handled entirely by local companies.
Going forward, Jacobs said that the company will look to get more licences in Manitoba should the opportunity arise. He added that they will start online sales through the company’s website in the future.
There’s also another group Jacobs is hoping to lure inside.
“We’ve yet to penetrate into the ski hill crowd,” he said in reference to Asessippi Ski Hill north of Russell. “I don’t think that they’re aware that we’re up and running. That will be an important customer base. Clearly, from what we’re seeing right now, is that the most important customer base is the local population and the surrounding area.”
» Twitter: @ColinSlark