As the legal cannabis market expands to include more than 1,000 stores, some Authorized Retailers are finding unique and memorable ways to distinguish themselves in the market. One way to do this is to specialize in certain things — either products, a certain demographic, or a unique service. Here’s how four Authorized Cannabis Stores are setting themselves apart.
Catering to their Community Purple Tree Cannabis, Toronto
When owner Matt Piotrowicz first opened Purple Tree in Toronto’s Parkdale/Roncesvalles area in the fall of 2021, he knew he was going to be catering to a specific clientele — harried parents of young kids and older, long-time residents of the neighbourhood. “We started off more flower forward because industry averages said that about 75% of our sales were going to be flower and pre-rolls,” he says. “But when our clients all started coming in asking about CBD, lotions, drinks and oils, we quickly found those averages don’t apply to our community. “So Purple Tree pivoted quickly, and now features a selection that’s more focused on CBD, CBN, edibles, and beverages.
Piotrowicz also made a big investment in an interactive “bud bar” display where customers who are interested in flower can see the product through clear plastic containers and press a button to smell it. As one of the only Authorized Cannabis Stores in the neighbourhood, Purple Tree listens carefully to make sure they’re giving their customers what they want. “Some of our top-selling products were originally brought in as client requests,” he says.
Serving the Over 45 Crowd in a Rural Community Village Buds, Campbellville
Serving the smaller communities of Milton, North Burlington, Flamborough, Carlisle, Moffat and Puslinch, Village Buds is located in a small town of horse farmers. “As the small-town, local dispensary of what many consider a contentious product, it is essential for us to work hand in hand with our customers and our community,” says owner Shelly Howe. Which is why a portion of their sales go to the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society, a charitable organization that assists in the adoption and relocation of retired and non-racing standardbred horses within Ontario. “We want to give back to the community in a way that matters to our town, horses and racing are the core of many of our customer’s livelihood,” she says.
Most of Howe’s customers are over 45, and after a lifetime of prohibition, many are overwhelmed by the raft of legalized products they can now choose from. That’s why education is a cornerstone of Village Buds’ philosophy. Howe made sure the space is welcoming to everyone, especially newbies, which means a lot of high-CBD products are available. Village Buds also provides a seating area where customers can flip through a catalogue of everything the store sells and they revamped their displays into (locked) showcases of the actual products so people can see what they’re buying. “We try to make it so they can browse in a number of different ways without feeling pressured or embarrassed,” Howe says.
Focusing on Legacy Consumers Cosmic Charlies, Toronto
So, let’s get one thing out of the way — Cosmic Charlies is actually not named after Charles Kady, who owns the Queen West store with his brother Sean. It’s an homage to a famous Grateful Dead song called — you guessed it — Cosmic Charlie. The trippy vibe of the store’s interior design (think astronaut planters, biomorphic mirrors and display case and lots of purple and yellow) is also a shout out to cannabis’ psychedelic history and their way of competing with the illegal market.
With their primo location near Trinity Bellwoods Park, the centre of downtown hipster life, the Kady brothers knew they wanted to create a vibe that connected to legacy consumers. Beyond the brand, the team uses their experience from the legacy market to encourage an open dialogue on cannabis, past and present. “We guide our diverse range of clients who feel overwhelmed by the multitude of choices, offering expert service and providing meaningful experiences,” says Charles. Cosmic Charlies also does their best to cater products to their legacy consumers. “We’re very honest with our customers. We ask them what they get from illegal suppliers and find ways to provide better options in our store to encourage them to shop legally,” he says. The store’s vibe and the product selection make for a pretty distinctive brand package. Or, as Charles puts it, “We use cannabis to open people’s minds to their inner cosmos.”
Specializing in Small Batch Shivaa’s Rose, Toronto
If you live in a city, these days you can get pretty much anything you’re craving — sushi! Thai! One perfect piece of chocolate cake — delivered to your door almost instantly. So why not craft cannabis?
Shivaa’s Rose specializes in unique, small-batch products and provides fast delivery to your door. “We offer a wide selection of craft cannabis. Our customers are really interested in limited-release niche products, they’re flying off the shelves.” says Junior Sritharan, co-owner of Shivaa’s Rose. Sritharan has found that premium products are doing better than most of their budget items.
While home delivery was always in Sritharan’s long-term plan for the store, which opened in Bloordale last Valentine’s Day, the pandemic turned that nice-to-have into one of Sritharan’s major focuses. The Shivaa’s Rose team includes people who worked previously in concerts and events, so they put that logistics power towards creating the store’s delivery program. “We’re the fastest in Toronto,” Sritharan says proudly of their delivery-within-one-hour promise in Toronto and same-day guarantees in the larger GTA. “We do on-demand delivery like you’re ordering a pizza.”