By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
As Tom Petty once said, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
This is likely how local residents wanting to buy cannabis in Oshawa have been feeling since April 1.
That was the date cannabis retail stores could open their doors in Ontario, but for months, the approved store in Oshawa had yet to do so.
That all changed as Tokyo Smoke, located at 575 Laval Drive, celebrated its grand opening Tuesday.
Owner Jacob Stevens says he shares the relief of those looking to patron his store.
“I know it’s been longer than expected, but we are eager to serve the Oshawa community and Durham Region,” Stevens, a Thornhill resident, told The Oshawa Express.
Stevens was one of 25 applicants selected in a lottery held by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) earlier this year.
Once receiving a license from the AGCO, stores could open on April 1.
But the Oshawa store, originally under the name of Fabulous Leaf, faced several delays and didn’t receive its license until early July.
Stevens says he wanted to find a partner to work with, which led to the delay.
“I did my research looking for the right partner for the community and myself. I visited a number of different stores, and met with different management groups, and realized Tokyo Smoke was par excellence,” Stevens says. “They had great management and great experience, and were able to provide the leadership and skill set we would need to set up a great store.”
While Stevens admits this took longer than he had hoped, he believes it will be a successful partnership.
“I think everyone is going to be very pleased with the quality of products, and what they have to offer with the educational support, and the training they’ve been able to provide,” he notes.
Tokyo Smoke is a cannabis retailer founded in 2015. The first Ontario store under its brand opened at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto this past May.
Director of franchising Melissa Gallagher says the company focuses on educating its clients.
“We’re ingrained into the communities in which we operate, so we’re excited to work with a local entrepreneur to bring the brand to life here in Oshawa,” she says.
The store offers 109 strains of cannabis, along with products such as oral sprays, gel capsules, and accessories.
Stevens said the location was key to him.
“I think with the location in the Smart Centre, it’s right off the highway, it’s well situated, people can come to the store and also enjoy a number of the different restaurants… do their banking, visit Walmart, go to Lowe’s, there’s so many other different opportunities here at the same time that they come to visit our store,” he says.
Stevens acknowledges he received some concerns on traffic and security from the public.
“We took those concerns very seriously… we addressed those issues, and have them in mind.”
The store will have security guards on-site to ensure customers are following the region’s and province’s smoking bylaws.
“I think most of the public is aware of those smoking rules. They know smoking isn’t welcome right by the doors, and has to be done in a lawful place,” he said.
Stevens points out he also received several letters of support, which he believes shows “how eager and happy the community is we were coming here.”
Gallagher noted they had some people ask about the store on Monday afternoon.
“There’s lots of support at the door,” she says.
While Tokyo Smoke is in Oshawa, Stevens said the next cannabis retail store to the east is in Kingston, so the client base will expand outside of the city’s limits.
“Everyone in between, going up and down the 401, we are just two lights off the highway, so it’s an easy drive,” he says.
For more information, visit ca.tokyosmoke.com