After months of waiting and no word one way or another, Sylvan Lake will finally see its first cannabis retail location opening.
Valhalla Cannabis, named after owners Barb and John Larsen’s own Viking heritage, is set to open Sat., July 27, roughly eight months after cannabis was legalized in Canada for recreational use.
On Oct. 17 of last year, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) released 65 names to open retail establishments, according to John Valhalla Cannabis was number 68 on the list.
“Then in January when they released another 10 names, we waited for ours, but there were somethings that had to be changed. We went from being number 68 on the list to number 138,” John said.
The time spent in limbo was put to good use. The brother and sister took the time to learn as much as they could about the product and travelled to other stores to see examples of how stores have been set up.
Barb said it was a difficult time, not knowing when the AGLC would permit them to open up shop.
“We had hired staff last fall, but not knowing when we were going to open most went on to find other employment,” Barb said. “Luckily though most, if not all, have agreed to come back at least in a part-time position.”
The duo used their time to plan for the store opening, with the intention of making it feel and look different from what one may think for a shop of this type.
Barb says most people think of a dark, dank shop when they think of a cannabis retailer.
So the two decided to flip the image on its head and make the space open, bright and inviting.
“We wanted it to feel more like a jewelry store,” Barb said.
During the eight months of research and trips to other stores, including some in British Columbia and Washington, John came across a different way to showcase the product within the strict guidelines set by AGLC.
Valhalla Cannabis will have what the owners are calling a sensory table.
The table will showcase 15 of the best-selling products in the store in secure and sealed clear jars.
“I don’t like the idea of having to buy something sight unseen,” John said, explaining all cannabis products are sealed and closed off and cannot be opened until the customers gets home.
“With the sensory table, you can at least have an idea what the product looks, and smells like.”
John said opening a cannabis retail location in Sylvan Lake makes sense, as it will help residents continue to shop locally rather than driving into Red Deer or Rocky Mountain House.
The two said it was also important to them to keep the store “as grassroots as possible.”
“We hired local for the construction and local for the staff. I think Barb is the only one from out of town,” John said.
The Larsens say the sensory table and store will help bring education to the general public, to show cannabis is being sold in a safe and responsible manner.
The owners of the store expect there to be lineups when the store officially opens July 27. Already, there has been interest in the store and a few potential customers have entered the store thinking it already open.
“The Town has been supportive and there has been a lot of interest so far,” said John.
Valhalla Cannabis is the first store of this type to open in Sylvan Lake. Town Council has approved five applications for a cannabis retail location, four of which are still waiting for approval from AGLC.