Folks at a new business in Madawaska Valley are counting down the hours until they can sell cannabis products. BayBud Cannabis, located at 48 Bay Street in Barry’s Bay, will have its final inspection by the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) on Friday, September 11. The Current met with owner Mike Klobouk and Assistant Manager Maxine Dombroskie for a pre-opening tour of the premises. Above Mike KIobouk and Maxine Dombroskie beside a display of branded product.
The photos vividly demonstrate that Klobouk has made a significant investment since purchasing the property in June 2019. He said, “It’s worth the investment. We want to invest in Barry’s Bay, have something nice here to draw people in: cottagers, tourists, and for the people here year round. Also we have some ways to go in having cannabis accepted so I wanted it to be a nice store where people feel comfortable and welcome – rather than some sketchy place.” Before developing the design concept, Klobouk visited a lot of shops in Ontario cities and says he was also inspired by photos of some shops in Colorado and California. “I’m trying to present something respectable and permanent — a place where people will look forward to coming.”
If the final inspection goes as planned, doors will open to the public at 2:00 p.m. on Friday September 11. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place a week later on Friday September 18 at 10:00 a.m. Hours of business will match LCBO hours: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (open to 8 p.m. on Friday) and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sneak peek behind the doors
Klobouk said it was important that the store be completely accessible, so they went to a lot of effort to put in a wheelchair ramp and automatic doors.
He said the main regulation about retail cannabis is that no one under the age of 19 should be allowed to enter the store. He added, “I’ve seen a lot of stores that don’t have the space so [they] have a door man standing outside all winter. I didn’t want that, so we built a reception area where IDs will be checked.” The glass is frosted so you can’t even see the store from either the reception area or the street. Klobouk said the reception area would be staffed and that the doors are operated remotely by staff.
BayBud has hired ten people part-time and two full-time staff. At peak times he expects to have six employees in the store. Klobouk says, “We’ll see what traffic flow is in the winter, but I expect [more] in the summer…. I would rather pay staff to be on hand. Right now [with COVID], there are surfaces to keep clean, and they can go through the catalogue and learn about the products. I’d rather have more staff and customers through here as [efficiently] as possible rather than have people lining up and waiting. The intention is to provide as good a service as possible.”
All members of staff have the CannSell qualification, have taken online training for the point-of-sale software, and are working their way through literature provided by licensed producers about their products and different lines. Klobouk feels that many customers will appreciate assistance from knowledgeable staff and wants to have enough personnel not to rush customers. He said people who know what they want will likely pre-order online or by phone.
Originally the store was meant to be open plan but with COVID, a flow pattern has been established to maintain appropriate distancing. There is considerable space devoted to product information and consumer education. Tall display cases (see photo at top) contain branded products, and there is a central wall display to help consumers understand what they are buying. Klobouk said, “Like the LCBO, you can’t taste it. Here you can’t even touch it, you can’t smell it, and a lot of the stores I’ve been to all they have is 200 packages to look at. So here we’re going to take stuff out of the packages and show you this is what the flower looks like, what a pre-rolled joint looks like, etc.” There is a display of accessories and small items such as vape pens, disposable and refillable. There is also a section for each product such as beverages, CBD products (topical creams, edibles, mouth sprays), chocolates, gummies, gels, soft gels, concentrates and so on. “In this way people can see what is inside that package.”
There are four points of sale, and people who have ordered in advance by phone or from the website can use the Express Pick-Up line nearest the entrance to have their order within seconds. Both website and retail store TV displays have menus that list all products and are tied into the BayBud inventory on a real time basis, so customers can always see what is available at the time of purchase.
An existing customer base
As part of the process, Klobouk reviewed the marketing statistics from their supplier, Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). This showed that OCS is selling a substantial amount of cannabis products online that have been mailed to the K0J postal area, and to Klobouk this indicates that the majority of existing customers are year round residents. He said, “Somebody who goes to the cottage for a week is unlikely to have it delivered here. So the residents would be steady customers, plus you have cottagers and tourists. So I think we have three different markets.” While there will always be customers who want to have cannabis products delivered, in his opinion OCS would prefer its main business to be wholesale distribution instead of retail.
Despite the publicized delays in the licensing process at the provincial level (which Klobouk maintained is understandable in a completely new industry and distribution system), he said he has received excellent cooperation at the local level from Madawaska Valley, County of Renfrew and the AGCO local team. He also said he has not received any hint of opposition. He summed up, “We’re here to stay. Once people come in and get great service and the products they want, they are going to remember it…. It will take a little while to get up and running fully and to get known but I’m confident.”
For more information, people over the age of 19 can visit BayBud.ca or drop by the store.