Mother and daughter

Dionne Bakalos, left, and daughter Katerina own and operate Green Gaia Cannabis Co. in Summerland and Penticton

Not every parent partners with their kid to open a cannabis store.

Dionne Bakalos did just that with daughter Katerina, who is owner operator of Green Gaia Cannabis Co. The licensed cannabis retail store has locations in Summerland and Penticton.

“We really wanted to support Katerina on her beliefs, and to really listen to her on what she wanted to do as a career path—which is not easy as a parent when your child says, ‘I’m into cannabis,’” said Dionne.

Dionne said she never experimented in high school. Katerina, on the other hand, said from a young age she was curious about cannabis and what it could do for her. She said it has helped her a lot over the years. When she discovered CBD, her interest rose to new highs.

“It started with treating our family,” said Katerina. “Dionne was going through some health issues and needed to find some relief.”

Dionne was prescribed numerous drugs, including prednisone, which had myriad side effects. She decided to experiment with different CBD formulations until she found one that worked. Soon, she was feeling better and back to work. Despite surviving multiple fights with cancer, Katerina’s father was a little tougher to persuade. Relief for sleep problems eventually turned him toward cannabis.

“My dad had really bad insomnia, so we got him started on it. He was never a believer in it, and seeing me experiment as I was younger didn’t go over very well. Once he started seeing the results from Dionne, he thought he’d give it try,” said Katerina.

Katerina said she worked with a local scientist to formulate bath and body products. Word spread as they shared their successes. In October 2017, they opened a retail location inside Summerland Gold to sell CBD products. In 2018, they opened Green Gaia.

They’ve since transitioned into the legal market. The family has deep roots in Summerland.

Dionne has lived in the small community for 40 years. She said she feels compassion for her neighbours who are also suffering from pain and ailments.

“We were medical before we were recreational,” said Dionne. “We’re in it for the right reasons and that’s our focus. A lot of people were coming in in pain and we were wanting to treat that. Listening to them is really key — what they’re trying to say and reading between the lines sometimes.”

Katerina said it is a tricky balance trying to help people in such a highly regulated market. There are limitations to what they can say to customers. “We can’t give medical advice,” said Katerina.

Still, they are able to help guide customers toward strains and products they may enjoy.

“We get people coming in here with canes or in pain, you know that they’re hurting. You’ll see them a month later and they’ll be skipping into the store with a smile on their face and saying, ‘We’re doing great.’”