As an award-winning filmmaker David Nguyen has been recounting other people’s stories for quite a while. But he was never part of the story until January, when he won the right to apply for a retail cannabis license in Ontario. Thanks to his luck in the government-run lottery, he is now playing a big role in the province’s cannabis story.
Nguyen had to jump through a lot of hoops to open his store on Apr. 1, the date by which lottery winners had to commit to opening. But he feels the months of intense preparation was worth it. Shortly after his Burlington, ON., store welcomed its first customer, Nguyen told the CBC the experience was beyond his imagination. “I’m ecstatic. It’s crazy,” he said.
The store, Relm, is huge. At 4,600 square feet, it seems to take up most of plaza it’s located in. Nguyen has described it as the largest cannabis retail space in the country.
The interior is bright and clean with expansive white walls. Menus are posted on screens hanging from the walls but the cannabis itself is nowhere to be seen. Product is stored in locked cabinets where only employees can access it.
To ensure he could open Relm on time, Nguyen focused all his efforts on making the store operational, not pretty. “We had to sacrifice cosmetics to a certain extent,” he told Leafly. “Right now, the store is just a shell. We’re still debating what the final look will be, but I’m leaning toward an Apple store look.”
Nguyen also said he plans to add sniff jars (sensory display containers) so that customers can get up close and personal with the product.
If the word “finally” wasn’t spelled out in big, gold foil balloons on opening day, you might have wondered if you had strolled into a Service Ontario office. In addition to being somewhat sterile, the space also has long lines of customers—but these Ontarians aren’t seeking license plate stickers or OHIP cards.
When you enter the store you’re asked for an ID and handed a paper menu to peruse while you wait in queue. You then consult with one of the budtenders on staff. They are personable and knowledgeable and they take the time to answer a variety of questions about their products and about cannabis in general.
Nguyen said he has about 22 people on staff and he plans to add to the total.
Products & Pricing
Cannabis is housed in cabinets out of view but as budtenders assemble orders, you may just catch a glimpse of the containers’ yellow warning labels peering out like a ray of sunshine poking through cloud cover.
Expect to find an array of flower and oils in stock, while the the selection of accessories, including lighters and grinders, is slim.
Prices for a gram range from $12 to $17.75. A half-gram prerolled joint is around $10.
What You Should Know
Parking is plentiful and the store is easily accessible for all.
In addition to continued improvements at this store, there could be more Relm outlets on the horizon. Nguyen plans to expand to other locations once other Ontario municipalities give the green light to cannabis retail stores. “I’ve got a great team in place so I know we can get everything done,” he said.