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Saskatoon’s newest cannabis retailer looks to light up Riversdale

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Digital cannabis ordering stations stand in front of the featured flower wall of cannabis in Kiaro on Jan. 28, 2019.

Saskatoon’s 20th Street is home to a variety of businesses and has seen its newest addition with Kiaro, Bridge City’s newest cannabis retailer. Derived from the Italian word for light, Kiaro’s approach to cannabis revolves around illumination by removing stigma and providing education.

Located at 212 20th Street West, Kiaro hosted their grand opening on Jan. 26 and 27. Along with cannabis strains, Kiaro sells designer smoking accessories, cannabis appliances, such as a decarboxylator, and the standard fare of rolling papers. The space itself is akin to other high-end retailers: brightly lit and high tech with touch-screen computers holding the store’s catalogue.

Andrew Gordon, senior vice-president for Kiaro, says Kiaro’s vision is based on informed, refined decision making.

“We really want to create a refined retail experience. We want to be an inviting, socially responsible and compliant operator in the community, and we’re really focused on destigmatizing cannabis use,” Gordon said. “It’s important — through education, service and support — to empower people with information and resources, so they can make informed decisions about their own choices with cannabis.”

Gordon expanded on this notion of consumer education and how it takes shape not only in staff-customer interactions but also in the products that they have available.

“[Our education] is really focused around a product offering that is very nuanced in terms of the need state of our customers — making sure we’re not overwhelming people, that we provide a really detailed experience of each product and the people, the purpose and the passion behind each of the products because we are so limited in our conversation in a non-medical private retail environment,” Gordon said.

For Gordon, the types of conversations that cannabis retailers can have with their customers are changing.

“We can’t talk about the efficacy of cannabis anymore, so we really have to talk about the products in a way that you’ll see in a lot of other retail environments: how it’s made, where it’s drawn from, the people that add value to the product and really allowing them to get a sense of the value in a regulated product that’s quality assured and analytically tested,” Gordon said.

In addition to education, Kiaro also states a focus on community, both in being connected to the community around them as well as interacting with them directly. One way in which this initiative manifested is through the inclusion of four local artists, who each made a design for the store in advance of their grand opening.

Gordon also explains the importance of a connection to community and expands on how they view their presence in the community.

“When you look at the opportunity we have as cannabis retailers to help normalize, contextualize and destigmatize cannabis use in the community, it’s important that we’re great brand ambassadors ourselves, so we really focus here on the people first,” Gordon said. “Our staff are our first customers actually, so we look to empower them with information, resources and training that not only meets but exceeds regulatory expectations, and more importantly, the community interest.”

Kiaro is aiming to work closely with their businessimprovement association and look for volunteer initiatives that, as Gordon notes, could include initiatives either around the conversation of cannabis or beautifying the neighbourhood.

For Gordon, Kiaro aims to provide a refined experience in and out of their store.

“We have to be great brand ambassadors for cannabis, and that means getting out and being proud consumers — showing that this isn’t about Cheech and Chong or those extreme outlier examples,” Gordon said. “This is working professionals and emerging, active seniors looking to improve and enhance their quality of life.”

Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor

Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor

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