Cannabis Retailer Launches Unique Shipping Container Retail Space with Expansion Plans

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Alchemy is the newest addition to Toronto’s cannabis retail landscape. The Toronto-based brand launched its PopCann store on June 6 and has an aggressive expansion plan set for the coming months.

Richard Browne, Alchemy’s Founder, is focused on creating an experiential, full-service, immersive cannabis experience. Alchemy is designed to be a high-end, boutique cannabis retailer, which is currently housed in a reimagined shipping container located at 2464 Dufferin Street in Toronto.

Alchemy’s PopCann location is a temporary home for the brand while the permanent location is being built on the same property. The flagship store — which is still under construction — is being designed by Toronto-based, multi-disciplinary design firm Studio Paolo Ferrari and managed by Toronto-based construction management company Elevate. Created with the goal of fusing the outside world with the inside, a skylight feature will allow the sun to penetrate the space and bring life to a tropical plant area within the store. The space will also include eight small window digital kaleidoscopes, creating a transcendent, other-worldly environment.

Still in the early stages of its initial launch, and yet to exist in a permanent space, Alchemy saw a good turn out during its PopCann launch. With many excited to experience the interior of the store, converse with highly-trained-staff, and browse available products. Others were still cautious of the potential risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Browne says that “every precaution has been taken to ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff. All employees are wearing masks and gloves, all touch points are sanitized regularly, we only allow a very limited number of customers in the store at a time, and we have installed an in-store ventilation system which hyper cleans the air. The environment would be considered very low risk. We also offer delivery services and curbside pickup for those who are still unsure about shopping in-store”.

Exterior of Alchemy storage container that served as the brand's home for the past few months. Photo: Alchemy
Exterior of Alchemy storage container that currently serves as the brand’s home. Photo: Alchemy

Due to be completed within the next two months, Alchemy’s flagship location aims to provide an elevated cannabis retail experience. Browne talks about his vision of an immersive, hands-on cannabis experience when cultivating the idea for Alchemy. “I wanted to create a space where people can learn about cannabis and the variety of benefits derived from it. To guide and inform the customer journey is a big part of the Alchemy experience. All of our staff are highly trained. They all have Ontario legal store experience, they are all bud tenders and have taken cannabis sommelier courses. It’s a great asset for customers who would like to learn more about cannabis and what products would best suit their needs. I highly encourage people to come in and talk to the staff. That way more people can enjoy the benefits of the industry. It’s definitely the best way to purchase the product.”

The Alchemy website describes the brand as “the modern reinvention of a licensed masterpiece cannabis store, contrasting elements of nature and technology in a temple of transformation for an immersive experience. Our mission is to provide each visitor with the highest quality of products and services tailored to their unique needs. We strive to give back to the community and educate, to challenge traditionally held stigmas of cannabis usage”.

Taking the past few months of uncertainty in its stride, Browne notes that while Alchemy’s construction was interrupted by COVID-19, things are on-course to open at the end of the summer, potentially the perfect time to open a new retail store as everyone is itching to shop and browse once again.

Despite the initial hold-up, there are big plans in the works, some that include expansion across Ontario. “We already have plans for six more locations all across the province. Potentially introducing another brand alongside Alchemy. We also hope to continue to use the shipping container as a temporary location while we build new stores, in much the same way we’re doing currently.”

Cannabis retail has become a major player in the Canadian retail landscape since it became legal in 2018. With many emerging brands competing in the same market, it is refreshing to hear Browne say that the community is encouraging of each other and learning together as a group. “Because the industry is so young people tend to work together and help each other. The sense of competitiveness isn’t as strong as it is in other industries.” Effectively the trailblazers in this aspect of Canadian retail, the numerous emerging Canadian cannabis retail brands are now navigating this new territory with the added pressure of COVID-19, however it would seem most are going from strength-to-strength.

Last week, Retail Insider reported on the aggressive expansion of Choom, another Canadian cannabis retailer successfully navigating the waters of COVID and cannabis. The week before also saw Retail Insider report on the rapid and aggressive expansion of another cannabis retailer, the well-known brand Friendly Stranger.

The movement towards boutique cannabis brands is gaining momentum despite the unanticipated economic downturn due to COVID-19. It will be interesting to watch the innovation that is forecasted within this particular sector of Canadian retail.

With some cannabis retail locations leaving little to be desired, Alchemy is dedicated to creating a sophisticated experience — one that provides the customer with the tools, knowledge, and quality products needed to elevate their cannabis experience — “a magical journey from ordinary to extraordinary”.

Retail Insider looks forward to the opening of Alchemy’s flagship location in the coming months and will provide updates when it opens.

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