By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
A Chatham-Kent business owner, and his business partner, are elevating Blenheim’s local economy.
Higher Limits, owned by Greg Kazarian and Philip Bradbury, is set to have its grand opening on Saturday.
It will be Chatham-Kent’s second cannabis shop to open since legalization (The We Store in Chatham was first) but is its first locally owned one.
“Everybody’s freakin’ pumped,” Kazarian said.
Customers can expect to find everything from capsules, flowers, topicals, oils, pre-rolls, hash, resin and accessories for consumption.
“We will try to carry everything that we can. It’s just a matter of what we can get,” Kazarian said.
The owner explained that at the start it’s tough for businesses to get everything that is in “super demand” because they are restricted by the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) on what they can obtain.
“Because they get products from the producers, and then they have to fairly allow everybody that’s trying to get some stuff to have a shake at getting things,” he said. “So we got our first order this week and looking at it, there were things we thought we were going to be able to get that we couldn’t.”
The shop employs seven locals, called “budtenders,” who all underwent three months of training and a course led by Chatham-Kent’s certified cannabis educator Athena Lumsden.
“We try to do as local as we can. You know all the contractors we hired here are from Ridgetown, Blenheim or Chatham,” he said.
Some of the products, although controlled by the OCS, are locally sourced. Higher Limits will be carrying Agmedica, which is a licensed Chatham-Kent producer. They will have a pop-up shop set up at Higher Limits to celebrate Saturday’s grand opening. The shop was set to have a soft launch on Tuesday.
Kazarian said legalization has been great for local economies and ensuring that cannabis is grown with safe and higher standards.
“I’m sure a large per cent of people use it and have used it, so I think it’s great to give lots of jobs around here,” he said.
Like every cannabis shop owner, the application process was a long one.
“I’ve been interested in the industry since legalization, and I kind of started off just by investing in the market, and the LPs (licensed producers) and stuff like that,” Kazarian said. “I thought this was a good industry to get into. And that was the only way to do it at the time.”
In January, private owners were allowed to open businesses anywhere within the provincial guidelines. By February, the partners finally got their Retail Operator’s License and in March they were allowed to apply for individual stores.
“So we applied for three locations on the very first day, shortly after midnight, that we could.”
Kazarian, who is a chartered accountant, said people getting in the cannabis game now still have a year before they can open. Some businesses might go under for having to carry a building for so long without any income coming in.
“It’s really long. When we first started, the province was only letting five stores get authorized a week. So the whole province was hustling to start opening stores. Then, as every week went by, and people were getting inspected and added on the list, the wait time was getting longer and longer,” he said.
Kazarian is not worried about oversaturation of the market, as more stores are allowed to open up every day.
“I’m not too worried about that. I think the community is very locally driven. I think anybody that’s from outside of the province trying to pop into one of these smaller areas is, I think, making a mistake,” he said.
Kazarian and his partner plan to open up more shops, but wanted to start off with just a few.
“I’ve got a good team here, like really good. I handpick them all myself, they’re a great bunch of people they’re passionate about the product and learning,” he said.
Higher Limits is the first of three locations to open for the budding chain. Amherstburg is set to open its doors in December, and a shop set-up in Chatham will follow suit in Spring 2021.
The store is located at 52 Catherine St. in Blenheim.