pot shop

Matt Bolton, owner and operator of Penticton's first retail cannabis shop, Spirit Leaf, said a store of its kind in the city was long overdue.

Penticton’s first retail cannabis shop is open for business.

Spirit Leaf officially opened its doors Saturday morning to find a crowd of approximately 15 people waiting, and the bustle still hasn’t stopped.

“It’s been a lot of long nights, early mornings to get ready … but it’s all worth it,” said owner Matt Bolton. “It’s long overdue.”

Bolton said customers who have dropped by have been very engaging and interested.

“A lot of times people are coming in here and they’re sharing their experiences they’ve had with cannabis. How they’ve used, what they’ve used, whether it was last week or back in the ’60s,” he said. “Some (are) quite green to the industry.”

But for those who aren’t, the shop is staffed with knowledgeable employees who are ready to help out.

“They’re (customers) excited. They want to try this product, something different. It’s interesting, it’s nice,” said Bolton.

And knowing the demand in the city, Bolton was so eager to open shop, he said he had the store ready by the end of May.

“I began building the store here before we got our licence from the city even, because we knew that demand was there,” he said. “At that point it was just a retail store build, so there wasn’t any issue.”

And while there were long periods of waiting, what with legalization itself being pushed from July 2018 to October, and the city accepting applications in February of this year, Bolton said the inspection process happened in a flash.

“Friday we got our approval in principle, but because we’ve been sitting ready for almost two-and-a-half months, the inspector came in on Saturday of the long weekend. We passed, Tuesday morning … they sent off our licences, we went through the processes of getting our cannabis by Friday, open Saturday.”

He also praised the communication and transparency he received from the city along the way.

Hailing from Ontario, Bolton and his brother sold their pizza shop after deciding to pursue the cannabis business.

“By Jan. 20, 2018, we had sold the pizza store and had a franchise with Spirit Leaf already done in early December.”

And he couldn’t think of anywhere better to open his new shop than Penticton.

“I said, ‘If I’m moving, I know exactly where I’m going,’” he said.

Spirit Leaf is located at 102-2695 Skaha Lake Rd., and is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.