When Castlegar’s first retail cannabis shop opens Friday, it will be the fulfillment of a long-held dream by owner Jeff Thompson.
“It’s been three years of work, thousands of hours,” says Thompson, who was waiting for his inventory to arrive when the Castlegar News caught up with him.
The shop, called The Higher Path, is located on Columbia Ave., just south of Canadian Tire.
It’s just the ninth recreational cannabis store to open in the province — Thompson’s first shop, which opened in Trail a few weeks ago, was the sixth.
It doesn’t look much from the outside — government regulations demand the store windows be completely opaque, and there’s no advertising on the outside except the store name.
Even the inside is pretty unremarkable — just a single poster of marijuana strains adorns the grey walls. A sampling table to allow customers to view and smell product and a work counter complete the spartan arrangement.
A company news release says the store’s “casual yet classy” design is intended to offer the customer a comfortable and intimate shopping experience.
For Thompson, it’s everything he’s dreamed of for years.
“I’m very happy with everything, totally,” said Thompson. “Our staff has been working in the industry for a number of years, they are well-educated, and we have a good idea of what customers are looking for in terms of prices and quality.
“So hopefully that will set us apart from all the others.”
“Having a variety of strains to choose from may be a new and overwhelming experience for most, so staff will be readily available to provide information and assistance,” Thompson says.
In addition to cannabis flower, The Higher Path will also offer pre-rolled joints, capsules and oils, as well as accessories such as grinders and dry-herb vaporizers.
“It will be a learning curve for everyone, but we’re very open to feedback and will make adjustments and evolve based on what we are hearing from our customers. We have access to a huge variety of products so if there’s something you’d like to see us bring in just let us know,” says Thompson. “Our aim is to offer a very personalized sort of “boutique shop” experience with outstanding customer service.”
Also important to The Higher Path’s success is being first to open in the city. Council placed no limits on the number of stores that could open in Castlegar, and at least four others are in the works, including two franchise outlets.
In a soon-to-be crowded market, Thompson is cognizant his shop has to find ways to stand out quickly.
“It’s tough to say if the community can support five shops, but we’ll see. It’s definitely an advantage [to be first] while the others aren’t open,” he laughs. “But maybe we can build a customer base while they’re not open as well.”
“I just hope that we’re giving a nice customer experience. We have a great staff, and it’ll be a lot of fun.”
The hours for The Higher Path will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.