OPENING early February 2021 - Vibe Cannabis is a family-owned cannabis retail store located in Liberty Village (66 Sudbury Street). Vibe’s general manager, Alicia Akbar, absolutely loves being a part of the neighbourhood, “It’s an incredibly welcoming close-knit community – we have a mix of townhomes and condos, all kinds of age groups, young professionals, etc. We were welcomed and received so well by our neighbouring businesses like the Levetto Pizza and Pasta bar next door. We immediately felt at home here. It became easy to begin working together and collaborating with our neighbours.”
The Akbar sisters decided to enter cannabis retail after experiencing the industry in Europe. Alicia recalls their trip to Amsterdam, “It felt great to see and be part of a community where cannabis was not stigmatized, where we could partake freely and without judgement. We imagined what that might translate to here in Canada one day and legalization was the first step towards that.” The Akbar sisters decided to try their luck and applied for a retailer license. They were approved fairly quickly – Vibe Cannabis was born.
They have focused their ‘vibe’ on creating a space that is “comfortable, creative, fun and where you can bring your own vibe”. This really comes through in their store design, which is clean, simple, and down-to-earth. The storefront features work by local artists, giving them a place to showcase their art, which is one aspect of Vibe’s goal to support and always give back to their community. Inside, wood panel walls and hardwood floors are accented by minimalist fixtures to give a truly unique shopping experience. “We won’t have everything out on display,” says Alicia, “it’s more of a 1:1 shopping experience.” Vibe Cannabis has been created with female consumers in mind. Alicia feels there is still some stigma around women consuming cannabis openly – as if it’s surprising that women enjoy weed too. She describes Vibe as a place her and her sister would like to shop in, alluding to past experiences in dispensaries which they felt uncomfortable or were bombarded with questions. When customers enter Vibe Cannabis, Alicia says she wants them to feel “like they’re part of the family, or a close friend - and they feel comfortable talking to us,” adding, “any and all questions or inquiries are welcomed.”
Although opening during a pandemic presents some challenges, Alicia is focused on the silver-lining, “COVID has been bittersweet,” she says, “even though we will only be allowed to offer curbside when we open, it will allow us to iron out the kinks and strengthen our operational efficiency. It also gives us a chance to start slowly and get to know our customers and what they’re looking for.” COVID has also halted any in-store experiences for the time being, but Alicia hopes to eventually be able to host specialty-based learning sessions with guest speakers so consumers can learn from experienced and knowledgeable cannabis professionals and experts on a variety of topics.
Above all else, Alicia says the best advice she can offer to anyone looking to open a cannabis store (or any retail store) is: be flexible and willing to adapt. “There are bound to be hiccups and some challenges are beyond your control. Allow yourself to be okay with timelines changing, vision changing, etc. Be dynamic and trust that your desired outcome will still be there at the finish line.”
Check out & follow Vibe’s Instagram account @vibe.cannabis
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