'A bit of stress relief'? Port Moody pot shop opens amid pandemic

Kiaro will open March 20 on St. Johns Street in Port Moody and its president said the timing might be right, although COVID-19 complicates business

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Amidst a landscape of shuttered stores and closing bars and restaurants, Port Moody’s first cannabis retailer is set to open Friday.

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Like everything else in a world trying to wrestle a global pandemic to the ground, Kiaro will have to do things a little differently — for a while, at least.

Eleanor Lynch, president of retail and wholesale for the Vancouver-based cannabis retailer, said the company has had to scale back its introduction to the Port Moody market by cancelling special events planned for this weekend, such as a vape education pop-up and chocolate tasting, as well as postponing its grand opening celebration indefinitely.

But in other ways, a cannabis shop is the perfect business to be opening in troubled times, she said.

In fact, Lynch said, sales have increased at its established outlets in Saskatchewan, Victoria and Vancouver.

“People are at home and they want to enjoy themselves,” she said. “They’re enjoying a bit of stress relief.”

And social distancing has been part of Kiaro’s practices since before it became a pandemic buzzword, Lynch explained.

Customers in the store place their orders using a digital screen and the product is retrieved from a separated, secure fulfillment room, passed through an opening and presented by a sales associate.

“It was created to be a nimble and agile experience because we knew it was going to change over time,” Lynch said.

In light of current events, the shop’s sensory wall, which features bud jars so customers can see and smell the actual product, will be closed, she added. When the world returns to normalcy, it will help visitors “understand the journey of cannabis.”

Lynch said the COVID-19 crisis has presented a significant curve in the already complicated route legal cannabis shops have had to follow to gain acceptance.

“All these hurdles and the timelines… to get up and operational is really a challenge,” she said, adding the company has had to take additional steps to ensure safety for customers and staff, including increased attention to cleanliness, heightened training in safe practices, and careful vetting of employees who may have travelled recently to ensure they adhere to self-isolation.

“This is a sensitive time,” Lynch said. “We’ve been very proactive.”

But even with people hunkering down in their homes, she’s confident they’ll find their way to the shop — they already have, Lynch said.

“We’ve had quite a few people knocking at the door the last few days,” she said. “They’re eager for us to open.”

• Kiaro is located at 2816 St. Johns St. It opens at 12 p.m. Friday, March 20.

Read more of our COVID-19 coverage here.

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