By Hollie Grace James –
The last year has witnessed a monumental shift in the politics and culture surrounding cannabis consumption, and Kitchissippi found itself at ground zero of these changes. After decades of prohibition, the federal government legalized the use of cannabis in October 2018. Although initially only available in this province through the online Ontario Cannabis Store, the provincial government legislated storefront sales as of April 1st of this year. With a limited number of licenses available for retail locations, a lottery was held to determine the five lucky proprietors for the Eastern Ontario region. Pure Alpha Holdings Ltd. was one of three lottery winners to locate in Ottawa, along with one in the Byward Market and one in Centretown. Pairing up with concept brand Superette, they made history by opening one of the first legal cannabis shops in Ottawa, located at 1306 Wellington St. W., taking over the space that once housed eco-store, Terra20.
Mimi Lam, Co-Founder and CEO at Superette, was born and raised in Ottawa, and decided to pursue an International Business Degree at Carleton University before leaving the city to join cannabis industry startup Tokyo Smoke in Toronto. Mimi spent her time there taking the reins on strategic and business development, working alongside retail guru Drummond Munro. Wanting “to do something a little bit different and a little bit fun,” the two eventually decided to branch off on their own, and in September 2018 the concept and brand Superette was born (with Drummond as co-founder and president). Seeing the lottery-based system as a golden opportunity, they jumped at the chance to work with Pure Alpha Holdings Ltd., and began planning the realization of a totally new retail world surrounding the up-and-coming world of cannabis products.
“It’s the beginning of a very exciting time and we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” says Mimi when asked about the brand elements they wanted to bring to this completely new retail space. Their ultimate goal comprises a few different components – providing accessibility, making customers feel comfortable, helping them with any questions that may arise, and ultimately guiding them through their very own cannabis journey, whether new or experienced consumers.
Targeting those aged “anywhere from 19 to 99” Mimi and Drummond have discovered inspiration for their aesthetic from bodegas and convenience stores popular among other parts of the world. As she puts it, “creating a cool brand with something that isn’t necessarily synonymous with cannabis.” They aren’t, and have no desire to be, the “Apple store of cannabis” like some other newly opened shops evoke, because Superette is a place where everyone and anyone can go to get exactly what they need, while feeling completely comfortable, accommodated, and most importantly, at ease. A beautiful and bright space with a large menu board, Superette aims to reduce the stigma associated with cannabis consumption, and an energetic and knowledgeable staff is key to the experience. Superette carries a diverse offering of products, because as Mimi states “no two people are the same, and “everyone is looking for something different.” Shoppers can find around 150 varieties of dry flower, to pre-rolls, oils (including sprays), and capsules, spend time browsing cutesy merch (think tees, totes and hats), or simply head straight to the order counter and spend time chatting with budtenders for a complete consultation. The selection of indicas, sativas, and hybrids, range from $7.49 to $16.99 per gram.
Mimi herself has been a medical marijuana user for years, and she’s certainly looking forward to the places the Superette brand will go as the industry expands. With her sights set on opening more stores across Ontario once regulations are lifted, she’s currently focused on creating a special connection with her customers. Although, according to AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) spokesperson Ray Kahnert, there were initial concerns by some members of the community regarding neighbourhood congestion, traffic, parking, and loitering, Mimi insists that the reception and interest in the store has exceeded their expectations. She says business has been booming with little problem and Superette plans on becoming a retail fixture in Wellington Street West.