Elisa and Sean Keay live just over a km from their cannabis dispensary, K’s Pot Shop. As the parents to two young boys, they didn’t want to deal with commuting and felt that they wanted to build something that could be a vital part of their community. Until recently, they lived within blocks of their new shop. With an emphasis on hiring locals via neighbourhood boards and an old fashioned help wanted sign in the window, they also get to provide others with the same opportunity to work close to home with a better work/life balance and help foster a sense of community connection.

With a desire to distance themselves from all of the “Apple Store” style of shops, they chose to make their own store feel more like their living room, a place where you feel like you are among friends.

Elisa told me that it is important for to be able to have a one on one relationship with her clients, many of whom she knows by name, as well as the friends and family that those clients send to her. Creating a local, family style community “hub” -her husband, Sean, is referred to as “the Mayor” and when you meet him, you will understand- and, when the store was open to the public, many people would stop by just to say hi and have a visit.

Both Elisa and Sean are long time recreational cannabis users but after Sean suffered a serious back injury a few years ago, it forced them to start researching strains and applications for pain management. Their interest in cannabis and its holistic applications was piqued and they began to dream of opening their own shop when legalization happened.

 Although they didn’t get a spot during the lottery process, the Keays knew they wanted to have their own shop and they began their preparations in advance. The minute the province opened it up to private licensing, they were ready to hit the ground running they and submitted their application right on Day 1. 

“LOL, yes, men think they own cannabis – because they always have. They had to role our joints, pick up our weed. we traditionally relied on them. they don’t get it. those days are O-V-E-R!”

Since Sean has not quit his day job, Elisa must wear many hats. Apart from her role as mother and day to day counter service (pre lockdown), she holds the CRML license for K’s Pot Shop and that lets her do all the staffing, training and ordering while she oversees the store’s operations. She deals with the cannabis reps and is responsible for dealing with the various producers and, most importantly, she is the chief dog treat dispenser. Basically, Elisa is running the show.

Opening their first retail shop of any kind would be daunting but doing that during a pandemic was a challenge, to say the least. Between the licensing, insurance, the hefty fees, background checks and the search for a suitable location, Elisa’s hands were full. Without a road map, navigating all of this as well as trying to figure out what a cannabis shop would even look like, Elisa managed to juggle contractor issues , supply delays and all of the other the inevitable curveballs that a pandemic throws at you with the never ending struggles of remote learning with her sons, managing to keep her family life chugging along with grace and aplomb. The kids know what the family business is although they are never exposed to actual consumption of cannabis but they know it’s legal and that there should be no moral judgement around the industry. Friends and family have been supportive  and, in fact, she feels like they are getting much more support than she anticipated.

As a woman in the cannabis industry, she points out that she is happy to be able to provide women with a safe and secure way to purchase cannabis products – a long way from the old days when we had to meet up with random dudes in some other random dude’s house at 11pm or, way back in the day, get a male friend to buy our pot for us. 

Women of all ages come into the shop but Elisa feels that, being 50ish herself, a lot of women her age feel comfortable commiserating and sharing stores about how helpful they found various cannabis product to be. At the end of the day, this is a family business that wants to provide a safe, homey, friendly atmosphere where their friends and neighbours can shop, chat and hopefully, in the near future, and hang out with Elisa and The Mayor.