In the fall of 2022, Cannabis NB ended a process to approve private cannabis retail locations in underserved communities and, almost a year later, we are proud to share that one of our valued retail partners, CANNABIS XPRESS has become New Brunswick’s first privately-owned cannabis store as of June 14, 2023. This is a significant milestone for CANNABIS XPRESS and we are excited to celebrate their achievements. To highlight these achievements, we sat down with Chris Jones, Founder and CEO of CANNABIS XPRESS, to find out how CANNABIS XPRESS has managed to thrive and compete in the cannabis market.
Merrco: Tell us a bit about your experience in the cannabis industry.
Jones: I’m a long-time cannabis industry executive and entrepreneur. Currently, I am the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CANNABIS XPRESS, which is a leading chain of 15 profitable cannabis retail stores across Canada; with 14 in Ontario, and 1 in New Brunswick, and we plan to have more locations opening soon.
Previous to that, I founded another cannabis retail company in Ontario and sold after it hit a run rate of approximately $15 million via an all-cash sale to a public company. Before entering the retail industry, I was actively involved in and led multiple acquisitions and investments ranging from several million to over a billion dollars during my time at a publicly traded company called Origin House (OH) which was later acquired by a top US-based multi state operator - Cresco Labs (CL).
I’ve also developed and taught classes at George Brown College through their school of continuing education. One of them more recently was called Cannabis Business Strategy, which includes a lineup of coveted guest speakers such as Bruce Linton (Founder of Canopy Growth Corporation – which was previously the largest cannabis company in the world by market capitalization). I also teach several other courses in management and business.
Merrco: What does having the first private cannabis store in New Brunswick mean to you and your team?
Jones: The team put in a lot of work in order to set up the infrastructure so that we could be successful in New Brunswick. I had to find all new suppliers to work with, and it was an added challenge because I live in Toronto and had to frequently travel back and forth out East to work there.
I am highly competitive, so being awarded the first private license was a big accomplishment for myself, the business and the team who worked hard out there to get the store open. The summertime is the best for cannabis sales (globally) and it is great to have this store open in the summer.
Merrco: What advice would you give to individuals looking to open their own cannabis retail business?
Jones: Only look at opening up a retail store in an area where there is little or no competition, it is very difficult to compete as a new entrant in a saturated market.
Also, get open as fast as you can, and monitor all costs to ensure that you are not overpaying for service providers, contractors, etc., and then make any necessary adjustments you need from what you learned on the first store for the second store, third, etc.
Go to events and meet with other retailers who have a successful business model and see what you can do to incorporate that into your own business.
This industry is one of the most competitive and highly regulated industries, and setting up new accounts may take longer than you think, especially when it involves banking. This is not a business where you be passive, to be successful you need to be “all in” since it requires a lot of upfront work to build out the business infrastructure and establish relationships in the industry.
Merrco: How is your experience with Merrco, and why did you choose us for your business?
Jones: My experience with Merrco has been positive, and their team is very responsive to any concerns that I have. I get along well with the Merrco team, and have worked with some of them (including Jason Bridgemohan) for several years now.
A Final Word
Inventive cannabis businesses like CANNABIS XPRESS bring so much value and diversity to communities across the country. CANNABIS XPRESS prides themselves on serving local communities and as New Brunswick’s first legal cannabis retail store, they will continue to deliver on this promise.
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