With the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in late 2018 and edible products in late 2019, some local entrepreneurs are nearly set to open shop this summer.
Shelby Behrens-Stevenson has been working in the industry for over 10 years. She started as an employee at a smoking accessory store in Burlington and was determined to open her own business where she could use her knowledge to better serve people.
Wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, she moved to Muskoka and opened Mellow Moose, a smoking accessory shop, in 2016.
“I was really open and honest with the Town because I knew it was more of a conservative town and I didn’t want to step on people’s toes,” she said. “I opened and the community has been so great to me and really supportive. I’ve made some great relationships with customers and Huntsville in general.”
Behrens-Stevenson is nearly ready to open her second business, Toke, a cannabis dispensary.
“The goal was always to try and retail cannabis legally and now that’s coming to fruition and I’m really excited,” she said. “Toke is an entirely separate entity from Mellow Moose.”
The rules for owning an accessory store and dispensary differ, with the rules on a dispensary far more stringent. Children are allowed in the accessory shop with parents, whereas they aren’t allowed in the dispensary even with their parent. Anyone entering a dispensary must be 19 years of age or older. Behrens-Stevenson said customers of Toke will be buzzed into the shop, to prevent just anyone walking in.
With her second business nearly ready to open, the 26-year-old said it’s both rewarding and scary.
“It feels really good. It comes with a renewed sense of independence and fear,” she said. “It’s a labour of love. I love my customers and the products.”
Adam Todd is putting the finishing touches on his store, Puffin’s THC and CBD Dispensary. Doing renovations during COVID-19 has had its challenges.
“Renovations had to cease at the beginning of the pandemic, but once the contractors were able to get back in they’ve been going hard and I’m quite thankful,” he said.
Todd was a part owner of Northern Upfitters and felt himself losing his passion for the automotive industry. He then started Absolute Stonescape, a natural stone landscaping company. But with a passion for cannabis products and the industry he wanted to open a dispensary in Huntsville.
“When it went to the free market I felt it was an amazing opportunity to work in the industry and educate the local community,” he said.
Both owners are hoping to have their shops open by mid-July, depending on when they receive licensing from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
A third dispensary, Kasa Kana owned by brothers Aren and Evan Arkarakas, is looking to open in early 2021. The Huntsville location will be their second store front, with their first set to open in Peterborough this summer.
“We were looking for a space that felt like home, our kasa, and that had a strong sense of community,” said Aren Arkarakas. “Going to the cottage and engaging in water sports and activities have been a large part of our lives and being so close to Kawartha Lakes and Muskoka made the decision that much easier. We’re very excited to bring our knowledge of cannabis to the Peterborough and Muskoka areas. Cannabis has this way of bringing people together and we’re truly looking forward to engaging with both novice and expert consumers. We’re looking forward to getting involved in the community and supporting other businesses within them.”
With the legalization of cannabis, these business owners say while there is still a stigma associated with smoking, opinions are slowly changing around it and its users.
“A stigma still exists with some people but that’s definitely changing more and more,” said Todd. “Some of the clients I work for in natural stone landscaping are in their 60s and they’re eating the edibles because there is a health benefit to it. It’s a way for them to get away from prescription drugs if they have anxiety, depression, or problems sleeping.”
“It’s become a bit more normalized now, and the more people feel comfortable talking about it makes those on the fence think they’re not criminals participating in some counter culture or lazy people melting into their couch,” said Behrens-Stevenson. “They see it’s their friends and every day people that have incorporated it into their lifestyle. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if people who have never tried it before are interested in trying something I’m happy to answer any questions they have on cannabis products. There are so many options and they do different things.”
Mellow Moose is located at 6 Brunel Road and Toke will be located next door at 6A Brunel Road. Puffin’s THC and CBD Dispensary will be located at 96 Main St E, unit E. The location of Kasa Kana is undisclosed.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!