With a swanky VIP-only event at Chez Piggy on Sunday evening, and a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning, Kingston is officially home to a cannabis store. Spiritleaf, a Canadian franchise operated locally by Daniel Telio, opened at 9 a.m. on Monday, Apr. 1, 2019 at 27 Princess in the Smith Robinson building at the corner of Princess and Ontario.
“This is our first store in Ontario, which we’re really excited about,” said Darren Bondar, founder and CEO of Spiritleaf. “We had a great opportunity to work in this great [Smith Robinson] building, which is just beautiful with 175 years of history. The Kingston community has been very welcoming, more so than many of the other communities we’ve opened in.”
One of Spiritleaf’s most prominent product lines is Up Cannabis, an Ontario cannabis company partly owned by the members of The Tragically Hip.
“We’ve had a great opportunity to hang out with the Hip and see what their vision is,” said Bondar. “I think our visions are really aligned in terms of how cannabis and community and music can live together.”
Spiritleaf capped off the VIP event by giving a $5,000 donation to The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. Gord Downie’s brother Patrick Downie was on hand to receive the donation.
“We’re really grateful for this,” said Downie in a brief speech to the crowd at Chez Piggy. “We look forward to our continuing partnership with Spiritleaf and Up.”
Spiritleaf is a Calgary-based company, but individual stores are owned by local franchisees. In Kingston, that franchisee is Daniel Telio, who won the Ontario government’s cannabis store lottery in January. Telio and Spiritleaf set to work right away.
“Danny and I met on Facebook,” explained Bondar as part of his prepared remarks to the crowd. “As I stalked him along with a few of the other [winners]. He’s been cooperative and collaborative. You have no idea how hard it is to get a store opened in 75 days. He just rolled with the punches, and we got it done. It’s challenging to get a retail store opened that quickly, let alone a cannabis retail store. ”
Sylvie Levesque, chief marketing officer for Newstrike, of which Up Cannabis is a subsidiary, was also on hand to address the VIP crowd, which included members and management of The Tragically Hip, Spiritleaf and Up Cannabis staff, local media, and more.
“We are significantly invested in Kingston as it is, as you know, the home of our partners The Tragically Hip,” she said. “We like to give back to the community, which is of course one of the tenets of the band, so we will be giving to three local charities to commemorate this special event: Hospice Kingston, the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area, as well as the Downie-Wenjack fund.”
Levesque spoke with Kingstonist after the cheque presentation to further reflect on Newstrike and Up Cannabis’ relationship with the Hip and with Spiritleaf.
“Cannabis is so new for everyone, and we believe strongly in ensuring we have informed consumers,” said Levesque. “With a store in Kingston, and our history with Spiritleaf, it is certainly a natural fit for us. The Hip have been involved with us since the beginning of Up Cannabis. We wanted a brand that really exemplified Canada, and who better than exemplify Canadian than The Hip?”
Up Cannabis offers six strains, offering a variety of experiences for the user, whether it’s a more relaxing indica-dominant strain, a more high-energy sativa, or a hybrid of the two.
“We felt like we didn’t need a plethora of strains to be able to do that,” said Levesque. “We also focus on educating the retail staff so they really know how to handle someone who doesn’t know what they want, but says that maybe they want something to help them sleep. So we want to make sure those people can get the right answers.”
Spiritleaf is open seven days a week from 9 am to 11 pm.