University of British Columbia
Stigma-shattering store could open as early as this fall
The old adage in real estate is location, location, location, and nowhere is that more important than it is for retail businesses. In the cannabis space, the idea that “weed sells itself” is quickly being replaced by an ultra-competitive business in which every advantage matters, and those companies set up with a location to drive traffic — and handle that flow of customers — are the ones set up for success.
By Brian Beckley, Garrett Rudolph and Patrick Wagner
Many cannabis retailers across North America have strategically selected locations to be near major universities. But only one, so far, has been approved for a location directly on the campus of a major university.
In July, Burb Cannabis Corp. received final approval from the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board of Directors to open a dispensary at the University of British Columbia.
“I think there’s a stigma that if you smoke weed, you’re dumb, and we thought if you had a shop on a university campus, that would be the ultimate show that that’s not the case,” says Burb CEO and co-founder John Kaye.
The shop still needs approval from provincial officials, but the company has already completed that seven other times, so it should just be a formality.
“But it is the government, so you never know,” Kaye says. “I think we’ll be able to open in November, but having said that, it could be January. The world is a little bit crazy right now.”
Whenever it does open, Burb will have a captive audience among cannabis consumers in the UBC community, which includes about 60,000 students, staff and faculty, as well as visitors and employees of the various businesses serving the pseudo-municipality. Burb will be the only shop on the UBC campus, and Kaye believes the opportunity to sell merchandise, such as hoodies and notepads, will be far greater than other Burb locations.
The company started the process of securing the location and acquiring all the necessary permits and licenses about 18 months ago, trudging through a contentious fight with a vocal minority opposed to the store and having to buy out the lease of a copy and print store.
With most of the legwork and paperwork completed — and what appears, on paper to be an amazing space for a cannabis shop — Kaye is anxious to get the store open and see how it’s embraced by the community.
“It was one of those places where it’s either gonna be a success or we’re gonna spend so much money trying,” he says. “The coin could literally go either way.”