Toronto’s first cannabis shop The Hunny Pot is standing out from a hive of competitors. With a modern aesthetic and welcoming atmosphere, the brand continues to cultivate a loyal following.
Since cannabis stores first began cropping up on Ontario streets in 2019, there’s been an explosion of options for customers. However, when licenses were first granted, only 25 were selected across the province through a lottery system – out of a whopping 19,000 applications. The Hunny Pot, named for founder Hunny Gawri, was one of the lucky few and became the very first legal shop in Toronto. From a whirlwind opening day, to expansion, and to continued success in an increasingly crowded market, Cameron Brown, spokesperson, and long-time friend of Gawri, shares the story behind the business that has the industry buzzing.
Rogers Business: How did you become Toronto’s very first legal cannabis store?
Cameron: We entered the first legal cannabis lottery and moments after finding out we were selected, began brainstorming and working endlessly to bring our brand, vision, and concept to life to ensure that we opened by the deadline.
Rogers Business: Tell us about opening day where some customers camped out overnight to be the first in line?
Cameron: The night before, we were inside the store ensuring that everything was ready and finalizing all the last minute items until 4:30 AM. At 6:30 AM we were back at the store ready to tackle the big day ahead. As much as we prepared the team of 55 staff leading up to opening day, we still did not know what to expect. Given that, it was beyond exciting to see the group of dedicated customers line up and camp out for more than 24 hours to be our first ever customers.
Rogers Business: One of your Twitter followers mentioned that your shop looks like a jewellery store or fashion boutique. Why is the in-store aesthetic and experience important?
Cameron: The interior design of our locations was something that took a lot of thought, conceptualizations, and work because we really wanted to steer away from the stigma around cannabis retailers. We wanted to elevate that experience for curious customers to ensure that we were introducing the legal cannabis industry to Ontario in an accurate way. Overall, we felt it was a good method to show we’re an approachable cannabis store for all walks of life.
Rogers Business: In the past year there’s been concern about an oversaturated market. How have you managed to continue your success and grow in this tough environment?
Cameron: The industry went from 25 stores to 75 stores to now 1,600 stores in Ontario all within three years. There are now multiple cannabis stores per block, all selling the same products. For us it’s research, research, research. We invest a lot of our time in understanding our data to ensure that we always have our finger on the pulse of the market, understanding where things are going, what our customer’s buying habits and patterns are to assure that we are always at the forefront of products, pricing and trends.
Rogers Business: What is the greatest reward you've gotten as an independent business owner?
Cameron: There are multiple!
Firstly, watching the Hunny Pot brand grow has been very rewarding. Secondly, the teams that we have built make us incredibly proud. We have a lot of people who started with us in year one, who have grown to be managers of our new stores. Lastly, our apparel line has been a rewarding experience. It always seems surreal to see customers in our stores wearing either a branded shirt or a hat or walking down the street and seeing an individual wearing our brand. We’ve seen our brand on people in the airport, at games, in Caribbean islands and witnessing that always brings so much pride, because to us that means loyalty.