By Gabrielle Huston, with files from Roger Smith
When Simon Anisman was a baby, his mom took him to her store, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s, and put him in a basket under the counter while she sold toys. Forty-three years later, Anisman is now behind the counter in that same location selling cannabis.
Anisman is the new owner of The Good Cannabis Company, the first cannabis store in the Glebe, at 809 Bank Street in the former Tiggy Winkle’s store that closed last April.
“I’m just happy I got to do something I loved back then,” he says, who worked for Tiggy Winkle’s and its offshoot, Lost Marbles, for about 20 years, “and I’m happy I’m getting to do something I love now.”
Anisman is worried about local backlash over a cannabis store replacing an iconic toy store. “In some peoples’ eyes, the way the optics looked, it’s almost as if we closed one to open the other. That’s not how it happened.”
He says his family did everything possible to keep the toy store open, even when hard times hit. Before it closed, he had been eyeing the fledgling cannabis business and decided to apply for a licence when the empty storefront in the building owned by his family gave him a location.
“It’s just serendipitous the way it worked out. The universe has a lot more to do with this than I ever could have.”
Anisman has modelled The Good Cannabis Company after a ’70s surf shop. He was inspired by surf-shop owners who spent their days talking to customers about different kinds of waves and what boards work best, then spent their time off surfing to test what they sold. He does the same with the cannabis he sells, getting input from customers and sampling himself. “I’m in the process of trying out everything on the menu,” he says, insisting that will allow him to give better advice to future customers. “You get one chance to establish trust. If you don’t, you won’t go far in any business.”
The store opened December 23, only two days before the post-Christmas COVID-19 crackdown limited it to online sales, curbside pickup and local deliveries.
Born and raised in the Glebe, Anisman loves the community; he wants to be “good neighbours” in the Glebe and to continue to contribute as his family did with the toy store. Once the pandemic is over, Anisman envisions events or open houses at the store where the public can ask questions about cannabis. He compares his excitement at running the store to getting to “plan your own birthday party.”
While cannabis stores seem to have popped up everywhere since legalization, Anisman is trying to differentiate The Good Cannabis Company with unique décor and great customer service. Despite some modern touches, like tablets to shop on, he prefers the aesthetic of “a simpler time” rather than the minimalist, modern design of most stores. That’s why his store is decorated with vintage accessories that Anisman has gathered in his travels, including stash boxes, ashtrays and more.
He also rejects fears that up to four cannabis stores in the Glebe is too many. “We’re going to get a lot of stores that open. I look at them like bars: you’d never balk at having three bars in one neighbourhood.”
It wasn’t long ago that cannabis was widely condemned as a “gateway drug” that led users to more dangerous substances. Anisman hopes his store will help dismantle the lingering stigma. “I would hope that people who are afraid of this won’t be afraid to come in and learn,” he says, noting that he’s a father of two and understands the fears of some parents. While noting that regulations are “tenfold” greater for cannabis than alcohol, he admits there’s no room to get it wrong. “To destigmatize something, you can’t have any mistakes. You can’t have kids getting into these stores in any capacity. Cannabis is the ‘new kid on the block’ and the eyes of the nation are on us. It has to be done properly, carefully and safely. And if we can do all that – which I believe we can – then the stigma will be gone very shortly.”
Gabrielle Huston is a student of journalism and humanities at Carleton University. She writes about human interest, local news, mental health, video games and popular culture. (theyavril.wixsite.com/inimitablyhuman). Roger Smith is a veteran journalist and the copy editor at the Glebe Report.