Ottawa businessman Will Chaar opened the dispensary in the former The Source and Radioshack premises on Notre-Dame Street in February. The store was the first of a planned six to open in the region, in an occasion that was not expected until later this year.
High Ties’ Nadim Helou said the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission had originally provided an 18-month timeframe for approval, but an increase in permits during the pandemic accelerated the process. “It meant we had to support the rent, which was fine, but we were also get a lot of enquiries about when we were opening,” he said. “Then AGCO went from 10 to 15 to 20 to 30 permits, which changed us from opening in October 2021 to February.”
All High Ties stores have a 1920s Prohibition-era theme, with tenders donning suspenders, bowties and hats. But Helou said the Embrun store would include touches paying tribute to the former electronics store tenants of the site. “We wanted that same feeling as The Source, so we have an old-school radio design as you walk in,” he said. “We’ve also ordered a lot of products that have wi-fi and cool technology. It’s not your traditional bong.”
While cannabis stores are a relatively new offering in Ontario, Helou said there had been little to no concern from the community about the opening of the store. The interior of the store was roped off until anyone who appeared to be aged under 40 presents identification, and temperatures are checked to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Helou said part of the store’s mission was to make newcomers feel comfortable and break down stigma related to the cannabis industry. He said High Ties aimed to be the “Apple Store” of the sector, with the store designed to make people feel at home and able to ask questions.
“Some of our guests might be a bit hesitant, but [the staff will] work to make them feel comfortable,” he said. “They’re able to relate on a personal level. If you feel like you left here with that stigma gone, we did a good job.”