Advertisement
Advertisement

Friendly Stranger Expanding Cannabis Retail Operations with Plans for Growth

Date:

Share post:

It’s been a busy 2020 so far for Friendly Stranger and the Friendly Stranger Holdings Corp (FSHC) team. And it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon.

This is good news for Canadian retail, at a time when we could all use some positive stories.

To kick off the year, the FSHC team added the iconic HOTBOX™️ to its growing portfolio. Having already included the family-run Happy Dayz™️ brand, this allowed them to get into the full-service model of serving the cannabis industry. Now their brand spans from accessories to product and ultimately they plan to add consumption lounges (when they become legal).

This month, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Friendly Stranger opened its first Toronto cannabis retail location on Church Street. This marked its third cannabis shop, with London and Burlington also opening their doors earlier this year.

Patience and flexibility are required in any construction project. But they were never so prevalent in the newest project as when COVID-19 added its many challenges. Just a few included working virtually with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to meet the regulatory requirements and pass the pre-opening inspection.

FSHC is planning to open its fourth location on Queen Street West, very close to the original store. And two more planned Friendly Stranger stores have just received building permits in Oshawa and Hamilton.

And if that isn’t enough, the FSHC is working to convert four Happy Dayz™️ locations to be licensed to sell cannabis, and Kensington Market’s HOTBOX™️ will reopen in the coming months.

Two more Toronto stores are planned to open: one HOTBOX (converted to cannabis retail) and one new Friendly Stranger on Danforth. HappyDayz conversions will happen next in their smaller markets of Barrie, Orillia, Peterborough, and Oshawa.

2020 Schedule of FSHC Expansion at a glance:

  1. London and Burlington open

  2. Church Street location opens

  3. Queen Street West is restarting construction

  4. Oshawa and Hamilton have building permits

  5. Two more in Toronto: HOTBOX convert and net new Friendly Stranger on Danforth

  6. Two more applications are scheduled to get in the AGLC queue (construction TBD)

Staying true to their values

“We are pleased to deliver on our aggressive expansion plan to become the leading cannabis and cannabis accessory retailer in Ontario,” states James Jesty, President of FSHC. “We have dedicated staff who are eager to safely serve and educate the community, remaining true to our company’s core mission and values.”

With a deep history of community presence and involvement, their dedication to education and drive to eliminate the stigma surrounding cannabis will remain front and centre.

As proof of its community commitment, Friendly Stranger has been in the Queen Street West community since 1994, HOTBOX has spent the past 20 years in the Kensington Market and Happy Dayz is a family-run business in their smaller communities.

PHOTO: HOTBOX KENSINGTON MARKET, TORONTO.

Several of their newest stores opened up just before (or during) the COVID-19 crisis so they haven’t been able to reach out in a meaningful way to the surrounding communities. The plan is there to also welcome the communities into the stores; a few of the new locations have small community rooms where the company will do cannabis education and local organizations can request space for meetings.

As they embark on their newest location in the Village, FSHC extends their commitment of support to LGBTQ2IA+ communities.

As more locations open, how is the transition from selling accessories to product retailer going?

Jesty sees it as a natural progression. 80 percent of their customer base are connoisseurs, the daily user. He’s very happy to be able to take the Friendly Stranger experience and brand and transition it into full-service stores.

“We are unique to our competitors because we have this long history and understanding of legacy and multiple brands,” explains Jesty. “I consider it a competitive advantage. And we’re still a small team, so we’re nimble and able to leverage our locations and reputation.”

What about expansion outside of southern Ontario?

“We’re in this for the long-haul. We will continue to grow. Obviously, we’re struggling like everyone else,” Jesty comments. “But there is now some light at the end of the tunnel. Over the next six to 12 months, the industry should continue to grow. And (we hope) to be in a position to look at real estate that makes sense and sign leases.”

Currently, FSHC has leases from Windsor to Ottawa. They continue to look for opportunities where they exist. But for now, they’re focusing on the GTA. Which makes sense as that’s where their brand recognition is strongest and it’s been their loyal customer base for both Friendly Stranger and HOTBOX for decades. It’s also still the largest market to grow in.

But FSHC isn’t saying no to merging or acquiring stores throughout the country.

“I’d love to have a 24-month outlook but as we’ve seen in the past two years, it’s very hard,” says Jesty. “We’re still on an aggressive growth plan and that’s super exciting.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From The Author

John Crombie Shares 6 Canadian Retail Trends to Watch for in 2023 [Interview]

Crombie, who's predictions usually come true, spoke at the ICSC Whistler Conference recently and discussed how retail in Canada is shifting as consumer habits change.

Video Interview: What Matters To Today’s Consumer in Canada

An expert talks about how consumers are looking for discounts and value, their concerns about their finances, how they are making fewer impulse buys and how they expect big companies to do good in society.

Major Condo Tower Rezoning Application Threatens a Block’s Worth of Toronto Restaurants

Developers say that they're responding to shifting urban trends, though only two small commercial spaces are proposed where a block of businesses currently operate.

Hudson’s Bay to Shut Londonderry Mall Store in Edmonton

The retailer will close one of its oldest locations in Alberta this summer as the retailer strategizes the future of its physical stores.

Toronto Six Professional Women’s Hockey Team Retail Presence Looks to Multi-channel Growth with On-Ice Success [Interview]

The President of women's professional hockey team the Toronto Six says that fans of teams are helping create a new revenue source.

Best Retailers for Customer Experience in Canada Ranked in Leger Study [Interview]

Thousands of Canadians were polled to determine which retailers came out on top, with some surprising findings.

Deciem Rebrands Many Stores as ‘The Ordinary’ as Company Shifts Focus and Retail Strategy [CEO Interview]

The popular beauty brand is refocusing some of its stores as 'The Ordinary' as Deciem grows its wholesale business with Sephora, and is also looking to launch new brands through its incubator engine.

Retailers Shifting Loyalty Programs to In-House as Businesses Drop Air Miles and Others [Interview]

An industry expert says that companies such as Starbucks have found success in its own loyalty programs, and consumer confusion with third-party programs is leading more retailers to develop their own.

‘Repair and Run’ Bike Maintenance Retail Concept Expanding to more Locations in Canada after Successful 1st Launch [Interview]

The bike repair business, founded by some of the people behind the launch and success of Mobile Klinik, is seeing success after opening its first store in 2021.

Earls to Launch New Restaurant Concept as Chain Expands Locations [Interview]

The Canadian chain is expanding its operations as consumers embrace in-person dining following the pandemic.

Canadians Should be Checking Receipts at the Grocery Store as Errors are Common [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that Canadians may not realize that the prices on the shelves and what's scanned might be different, and that there's sometimes an opportunity for compensation if there's been an error.

Retailer Bankruptcies Not as High as Expected in Canada Since Pandemic, but Uncertainty Persists: Insolvency Insider

The tsunami of business creditor protection filings didn't happen as predicted, but an expert says that a reduction of locations by some retailers as well as headwinds could lead to industry challenges.

Video Interview: How Red Tape Is Strangling Canadian Small Businesses

Laura Jones of CFIB talks about the impact of red tape on businesses across the country and why it's so important to their bottom line.

Italian Grocery-Restaurant Concept Lina’s Prepares to Open 15,000 sq ft Location in Calgary’s Inglewood [Photos/Interview]

The expanding business is based on the concept of an Italian public square or marketplace, making it a popular hub that has strong consumer loyalty.

Zellers to Launch Food Trucks in Effort to Drive Traffic to Bay Stores

The retailer has also all but confirmed the relaunch to the Zeddy teddy bear mascot as it prepares to open 25 locations inside of Hudson’s Bay stores this spring.

Cineplex Launches New ‘Junxion’ Entertainment Concept with Additional Canadian Locations Planned [Interviews]

The concept features movies, gaming, dining and live entertainment under one roof, with plans to roll it out to multiple Canadian markets this year as part of a growth strategy for Cineplex.

Queen Street West Retailers in Toronto Anxious about Metrolinx Ontario Line Construction [Interviews]

Construction has the community worried that they’ll experience a repeat of Eglinton line ‘nightmare’.

Ron White Marks 25th Anniversary of its Charity ‘Shoe Drive’ [Interview]

The Toronto-based brand, which has stores in the area, is taking in gently used footwear that still have life in them to give to those in need.

Supply Chain Issues for Canadian Retailers Expected into 2025: Expert

Various factors are contributing to ongoing challenges to coordinate the optimal availability of goods says Gary Newbury.

DTC Jewellery Brand Mejuri Continues Ongoing Expansion with More Stores in Key Canadian Markets [Interview]

Calgary and Montreal are the latest cities to see openings for the popular jewellery brand which is looking to gain market share with a growing loyal client base.

RECENT RETAIL INSIDER VIDEOS

Advertisment

Subscribe to the Newsletter

RECENT articles

John Crombie Shares 6 Canadian Retail Trends to Watch for in 2023 [Interview]

Crombie, who's predictions usually come true, spoke at the ICSC Whistler Conference recently and discussed how retail in Canada is shifting as consumer habits change.

Video Interview: What Matters To Today’s Consumer in Canada

An expert talks about how consumers are looking for discounts and value, their concerns about their finances, how they are making fewer impulse buys and how they expect big companies to do good in society.

Major Condo Tower Rezoning Application Threatens a Block’s Worth of Toronto Restaurants

Developers say that they're responding to shifting urban trends, though only two small commercial spaces are proposed where a block of businesses currently operate.

Hudson’s Bay to Shut Londonderry Mall Store in Edmonton

The retailer will close one of its oldest locations in Alberta this summer as the retailer strategizes the future of its physical stores.

Toronto Six Professional Women’s Hockey Team Retail Presence Looks to Multi-channel Growth with On-Ice Success [Interview]

The President of women's professional hockey team the Toronto Six says that fans of teams are helping create a new revenue source.

Best Retailers for Customer Experience in Canada Ranked in Leger Study [Interview]

Thousands of Canadians were polled to determine which retailers came out on top, with some surprising findings.

Deciem Rebrands Many Stores as ‘The Ordinary’ as Company Shifts Focus and Retail Strategy [CEO Interview]

The popular beauty brand is refocusing some of its stores as 'The Ordinary' as Deciem grows its wholesale business with Sephora, and is also looking to launch new brands through its incubator engine.

Retailers Shifting Loyalty Programs to In-House as Businesses Drop Air Miles and Others [Interview]

An industry expert says that companies such as Starbucks have found success in its own loyalty programs, and consumer confusion with third-party programs is leading more retailers to develop their own.

‘Repair and Run’ Bike Maintenance Retail Concept Expanding to more Locations in Canada after Successful 1st Launch [Interview]

The bike repair business, founded by some of the people behind the launch and success of Mobile Klinik, is seeing success after opening its first store in 2021.

Earls to Launch New Restaurant Concept as Chain Expands Locations [Interview]

The Canadian chain is expanding its operations as consumers embrace in-person dining following the pandemic.

Canadians Should be Checking Receipts at the Grocery Store as Errors are Common [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that Canadians may not realize that the prices on the shelves and what's scanned might be different, and that there's sometimes an opportunity for compensation if there's been an error.

Retailer Bankruptcies Not as High as Expected in Canada Since Pandemic, but Uncertainty Persists: Insolvency Insider

The tsunami of business creditor protection filings didn't happen as predicted, but an expert says that a reduction of locations by some retailers as well as headwinds could lead to industry challenges.

Video Interview: How Red Tape Is Strangling Canadian Small Businesses

Laura Jones of CFIB talks about the impact of red tape on businesses across the country and why it's so important to their bottom line.

Italian Grocery-Restaurant Concept Lina’s Prepares to Open 15,000 sq ft Location in Calgary’s Inglewood [Photos/Interview]

The expanding business is based on the concept of an Italian public square or marketplace, making it a popular hub that has strong consumer loyalty.

Zellers to Launch Food Trucks in Effort to Drive Traffic to Bay Stores

The retailer has also all but confirmed the relaunch to the Zeddy teddy bear mascot as it prepares to open 25 locations inside of Hudson’s Bay stores this spring.

Cineplex Launches New ‘Junxion’ Entertainment Concept with Additional Canadian Locations Planned [Interviews]

The concept features movies, gaming, dining and live entertainment under one roof, with plans to roll it out to multiple Canadian markets this year as part of a growth strategy for Cineplex.

Queen Street West Retailers in Toronto Anxious about Metrolinx Ontario Line Construction [Interviews]

Construction has the community worried that they’ll experience a repeat of Eglinton line ‘nightmare’.

Ron White Marks 25th Anniversary of its Charity ‘Shoe Drive’ [Interview]

The Toronto-based brand, which has stores in the area, is taking in gently used footwear that still have life in them to give to those in need.

Supply Chain Issues for Canadian Retailers Expected into 2025: Expert

Various factors are contributing to ongoing challenges to coordinate the optimal availability of goods says Gary Newbury.

DTC Jewellery Brand Mejuri Continues Ongoing Expansion with More Stores in Key Canadian Markets [Interview]

Calgary and Montreal are the latest cities to see openings for the popular jewellery brand which is looking to gain market share with a growing loyal client base.