Five pot shops within walking distance in downtown Toronto. What sets them apart?
If two’s a company and three’s a crowd, what does five make? When it comes to legal cannabis stores in Toronto’s downtown, that can only mean one thing: being spoilt for choice.
From the iPad-wielding budtenders to the mandatory “you shall not pass” ID checks, these five stores are located centrally downtown and within walking distance or accessible by transit.
Disguised as a potential first-time customer, a TGO team member went on a tour and was accompanied by Sandra Castillo, an account executive for Toronto-based PR and marketing company DECK Agency, which has no affiliation with any of the stores.
435 B Yonge St.
The store is located near Ryerson University, right beside fast-food restaurant Popeyes (munchies? What munchies) and is hop-skip-jump from the subway and streetcars travelling east and west.
The entrance of the store leads up to a room with glass display tables at the centre showcasing cannabis products like flower, oils, sprays and accessories on sale.
For someone who knows what he or she wants, the set-up is straightforward. There’s also a recycling bin in the corner where customers can drop off the overkill packaging that “will be sent to a qualified recycling services provider to be recycled into a variety of affordable, sustainable consumer products and industrial applications,” The GrowthOp notes in an article published earlier this year.
Despite the assistance, if still unsure, don’t feel compelled to make a purchase. But don’t be rude to the staff, either — the store has a sign clearly stating, “Physical or verbal abuse towards staff won’t be tolerated.” And it’s unlikely anyone would even consider messing with the intimidating security guard outside.
Sandra’s take: “Budtenders and security are always friendly. I signed up for text marketing, and they barely send me messages, which I appreciate as I don’t want to be bombarded.”
333 Yonge St.
From Canna Cabana, the store is just a five-minute walk away. The difference between the two lies in the aesthetics. While Canna Cabana may be a plain (but highly efficient) Jane, Tokyo Smoke is Jane’s fancy (equally smart) cousin.
The store is divided into four product sections: Go (said to ignite energy), Pause (said to promote relaxation); Ease (said to provide comfort); Rise (said to spark creativity) and Equalize (said to restore balance).
Cannabis buds are stored in round globes that act as smell jars. The budtenders can answer any question whether it’s looking up “the highest THC strain” or, the frequently overheard, “Which is the cheapest one to buy?”
There’s a Tweed recycling box that reads “doesn’t matter if you got it from us or another brand, we happily recycle it all.” The program developed in partnership with TerraCycle “takes it (packaging), cleans it and melts it down into plastic pellets that can be transformed into new products… which can be recycled again and turned into newer products,” notes the Tweed website.
Sandra’s take: “The store has beautiful displays. It would be better if they had a bigger space since it can get busy, but it’s the place to find everything and anything.”
202 Queen St. West
A first impression is often the last impression. But don’t let Hunny Pot’s bumpy launch be the only memory; the store is worthy of a second shot.
Located a 15 to 20 min. walk from Tokyo Smoke, the store is the closest pot location to the entertainment district, the annual home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Apart from cannabis, other products on sale include vaporizers, bongs, pipes, grinders, papers and other storage and cleaning supplies.
On this day, the store had a line-up that took less than five minutes to get through. Inside, there was another line-up, this time where people were divided into first-time customers and returning customers. The line for first-time customers was twice as long as the other one.
It took another five to seven minutes to get through. Climbing a flight of stairs, a budtender gave a basic lowdown on cannabis strains.
The store has three levels, making it convenient to move around, as well as a recycling box at the entrance. There are TV screens with product information (a common feature for all the stores), and a category called “Edibles.” Upon questioning, this refers to “soft gels” and “oils”, as they, too, can be ingested.
Whether something is purchased or not, no one walks out empty-handed. Store personnel hand out a black and gold sticker of a honeycomb (the store’s logo) near the exit.
Sandra’s take: “As a customer, I want fresh weed so I always take into consideration when the weed was packaged. On one occasion, after waiting in a queue on a very busy night, I asked the cashier to change my selected joint to another product with a similar cannabinoid profile, but with less time in the package. The lady was incredible, she found another product and made a note of my concern regarding the amount of time the product was on shelves.”
499 Queen St. West
Ever been to McDonald’s? Then this store might offer a bit of déjà vu.
Nova Cannabis is an ideal pit (pot)-stop if you care about who grows the cannabis as the display provides grower details. The store has flower, pre-rolls, oils and accessories on sale.
There is an order screen in the centre of the store, similar to the ones found in a fast-food restaurant, where users can browse options and order products. A coupon provided after ordering the product can be paid for at the cash counter.
Next to the cash counter, other products are on display in a deli-like manner. There’s even an in-store ATM machine. Every Thursday, the store offers cannabis education sessions, where attendees “receive a special thank you gift.”
Sandra’s take: “The information on display is wholesome, letting a customer know who is growing the weed that they are buying.”