The interior of the new BC Cannabis Store in Port Alberni. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Pair of Port Alberni pot stores open

B.C. Cannabis Store, Orange Bridge Cannabis first two legal pot stores to open in central Island

Two provincially-licensed cannabis stores have opened in the Alberni Valley.

The government-run BC Cannabis Store officially opened its doors to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The new store is located at the Pacific Rim Shopping Centre off Johnston Road in Port Alberni.

Director of retail operations Kevin Satterfield explained that this is the province’s sixth store overall, and the third on the Island. “[Port Alberni] is a great community,” he said. “It’s kind of a gateway to Tofino and Ucluelet. We really liked the location, and the municipality had all the bylaws in place.”

The sleek interior is not what most people expect from a BC Cannabis Store, said Satterfield. He describes it as “fashionable and functional,” with all items—even the 99 cent rolling papers—locked up and out of reach. Dry flowers are arranged at three tables based on their content—Indica, Sativa, hybrids and high CBD strains. Walls are covered in educational materials to help customers decide what they want to try. The interior is also entirely modular, so the design can be rearranged when more products like edibles, concentrates and beverages hit the market.

READ: Pot edibles, topicals and extracts to hit shelves no earlier than mid-December

“Each [store] is slightly unique,” explained Satterfield. “We’ve tried different layouts and plans to see how the customer reacts to it. Our customer makeup is ever-evolving.”

But the BC Cannabis Store was not the only location celebrating on Wednesday. Orange Bridge Cannabis, located next to Tseshaht Market on Tseshaht First Nation lands, has been operating for a couple of weeks, but held its official grand opening on Sept. 11. The store is unique, in that it marks the first retail cannabis license for a First Nation on Vancouver Island—and possibly across B.C.

“Our community was the one that directed us to enter this industry,” explained Ken Watts, a councillor for Tseshaht First Nation. “This couldn’t have happened without our community.”

Orange Bridge Cannabis is 100 percent Tseshaht First Nation owned and operated, with five Tseshaht members working in the store. Along with being one of the first B.C. licensed retail cannabis stores owned and operated by a First Nation, Orange Bridge also marks the first time in 30 years that Tseshaht First Nation has opened a new business along Highway 4.

“No pun intended, but we’re planting a seed,” said Watts during the opening ceremony. “That’s for all of Tseshaht to be proud. We’re breaking new ground. It’s important that we celebrate today.”

The name Orange Bridge was suggested by Tseshaht councillor Melanie Cranmer, while the logo was designed by Tseshaht member Willard Gallic Jr.

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The outside of the new BC Cannabis Store in Port Alberni includes frosted windows and doors, as well as a separate entrance and exit. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Kevin Satterfield, director of retail operations for BC Cannabis Stores, demonstrates how customers can test the smell of particular products. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

A glimpse at the shelves inside of Orange Bridge Cannabis. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

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