*This article is intended for those 19 years of age and older.
Sarah Ballantyne spent 15 years working for Alberta Health Services, which meant she had it made in the shade when it came to job security.
So what did she do?
She decided to jump into the abyss with both feet into the unknown, opening a Spiritleaf recreational cannabis store in Vernon with her husband. No one knew how the industry was going to do, but Ballantyne says it has been absolutely fantastic so far.
“It’s been doing really well, sales are great, and our customers are loving it,” Ballantyne says with a smile you can hear over the phone. “So I think we made the right choice.”
Ballantyne got a head start against all the other cannabis stores in the Okanagan—most of which have not yet received provincial approval—because Spiritleaf was the first legal location to crack open its doors in the valley. That happened on July 1, and Ballantyne believes it has been a factor in their success.
“It definitely helped,” she says. “It definitely gave us a lot of media coverage and with the restrictions on advertising, so we actually thought that was a big help to get the name out there right away.”
Spiritleaf, which is located at 102-2500 53rd Ave. in Vernon, features between 50 and 75 cannabis strains that are sold in all forms. Ballantyne added that “90 per cent” of her customer base is interested in edibles that will soon be legal in Canada.
The one-year anniversary of legalization, which is Thursday, is also a significant date as it pertains to those phase II products, which include food-grade edibles, topicals, vape cartridges and something that will truly stand out: beverages. Spiritleaf will be carrying all of these products the moment they become available.
Ballantyne feels particular joy when hearing from seniors who say the store’s products have helped improve their qualities of life. She says her location has a “huge” customer base of seniors.
The clientele as a whole is wide and varied, and Ballantyne says there has been a steady flow coming in the door since opening day. She has even heard from customers who have left their black market dealer due to the “convenience, knowledgeable staff and friendly environment” at Spiritleaf.
“We’re still getting first-timers every day,” she says. “We’re getting new customers every day still, and we’ve been open for over three months. And then we’re getting more curious customers, too, who want to try something new every time they come in.”
The one thing that has made Ballantyne’s career turn unique is the fact that she can’t do what all other Canadian businesses can do. That’s because the laws surrounding recreational cannabis in Canada prevent businesses from advertising and offering sales. There are also rules that prevent employees from offering any kind of medical advice to people looking for relief.
What Ballantyne can do, however, is purchase product from her own store like any of her clientele and then relay how it made her feel to someone looking to purchase some cannabis of their own.
“We like to do some research ourselves,” Ballantyne says. “That way we can provide good feedback for our customers.”
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
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