By Hollie Grace James
Spiritleaf Wellington West opened its doors last week making it the third cannabis retailer to call Kitchissippi home.
Spiritleaf is a Calgary-based cannabis franchise with stores across the country. The location at 1200B Wellington St. W. is the company’s first to open in Ottawa.
The new cannabis spot is owned by Kitchissippi resident Shawn Moffatt. With two AnyTime Fitness studios in the area, this is the 34 year-old’s third local business venture. Moffatt said the Spiritleaf team will be focused on taking the time to get to know their local customers.
“We aren’t looking to turn this into a conveyor belt of customers coming in and basically just ordering at the cash and leaving,” he said.
“Picture the local neighbourhood coffee shop that you go to everyday and you know all the staff,” he added. “We know customers by their first name and we try to make sure they’re educated when they make their purchase decision.”
Moffatt is entering the recreational cannabis industry as a neighbour to the longer-standing Superette Shop (1306 Wellington St. W) and Tokyo Smoke (1000 Wellington St. W). But he is quick to highlight Spiritleaf’s uniqueness as the only cannabis retailer in the area owned and operated by a local resident. Moffatt has lived in Kitchissippi for five years and exudes a passion for the community.
“This neighbourhood is a community through and through. It’s almost like a small town inside of a larger city,” he said. And this is where his local competitors, Superette Shop and Tokyo Smoke, are lacking, he added. “They were designed for Toronto. They don’t have a personal touch with this neighbourhood.”
After what he describes as a drawn out process, Moffatt said that he’s just happy that this new neighbourhood cannabis experience is finally open for business.
Initially, their team was fully prepared to apply for their cannabis license and open shop in October 2018. Moffatt said that he was extremely disappointed when the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) changed their policy from a merit-based system to a random lottery style selection.
“They pulled back and said that everyone in Ontario has a chance now and all you need is $75,” he said. “You don’t need a business, you don’t need business experience, you don’t need anything.”
According to Moffatt, a couple of the lottery winners that opened in Kitchissippi ended up aligning themselves with larger Toronto-based firms, namely Superette Shop and Tokyo Smoke. Moffatt said that he was then left to sit in his shop which, although had been empty, still required rent payment from October 2018 onwards. While local commercial rent has been high, he’s relieved that the doors are finally open.
“Now we’re proud to say that this is a completely locally-owned cannabis shop,” he said. “It might even be the only locally owned cannabis shop that’s in Ottawa.”
Inside the shop, Moffatt describes the decor of Spiritleaf Wellington West as Canadian chic — wood tones, greenery and mountain range window graphics.
“It’s very Canadian to its core. [And] that’s something that I think I wanted to align myself with,” he said about the choice to franchise.
Moffatt said that he was also drawn to the company’s social responsibility agenda. At Spiritleaf, a portion of their sales go towards the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack fund, dedicated to improving the lives of Indigenous peoples “by building awareness, education, and connections between all Canadians.”
For more information, visit https://spiritleaf.ca/locations/spiritleaf-wellington-west/.