‘Accidental’ pot retailer readies her store in historic house for next wave of openings

byBill Kaufmann

Karen Barry says she never planned to become one of Calgary’s marijuana merchants.

But when the well-known commercial realtor couldn’t get cannabis retailers to move into her 110-year-old converted house in the Beltline, she decided to join the green wave sweeping over the city.

“I accidentally got into this business … cannabis is not my first love,” said Barry, who’s set a tentative date of Nov. 1 to open Beltline Cannabis Calgary.

Barry had offered the refurbished two-storey frame house at 806 12th Avenue S.W. she’d purchased in 2011 for lease to other players in the pot retail business, to no avail.

“Three of them turned me down and I was about to do a deal with a 22-year-old hoodie guy,” said Barry.

When the young man’s questionable background came to the fore, the woman said she made up her mind to go into the business, but on her own terms.

A stubbornly sluggish economy that’s struck the commercial real estate also tipped her hand into exploring the buzz of a fledgling industry.

“It’s been a very hollow recovery — opportunity comes at a time when you least expect it,” said Barry, who put a mortgage on her home to launch the new endeavour.

Barry’s site received one of the first 11 interim licences issued by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, but the realtor said she was ordered to repeat her journey through regulatory hoops, ensuring she wouldn’t open last Wednesday, the day weed went legal.

When she does activate the cosy 750-square-foot shop, it’ll be in a space that was once a boozy, druggie flop house and squatters haven that was last used as a residential rental.

“This building we rescued,” she said.

 Beltline Cannabis Calgary owner Karen Barry is hoping to open her 12th avenue S.W. store soon. She was photographed in the store on Thursday October 18, 2018. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Unlike many other cannabis shops with a slick and contemporary look, Barry’s digs will have a funky, eclectic and retro feel.

A centrepiece will be a glass and riveted metal display case salvaged from Lloyd’s Recreation, which closed last February after 50 years in the roller rink business.

Another will be a 4.5-metre by 2.4-metre mural honouring Calgary’s historical notables like suffragette Nellie McClung, Canadian flag designer George Stanley and Beltline landmarks that have been lost to time.

“One side of me is very creative, the other side business,” said Barry as she and a business partner placed the first order for cannabis inventory.

Asked if she consumes what she’ll be selling, she said: “Let’s just say cannabis is for amusement, not abusement.”

A portion of the store’s proceeds, said Barry, will go to charity, including agencies that deal with addictions.

Aside from Barry’s undertaking, two more Calgary outlets have received AGLC interim licences but not yet opened — the Calgary Co-op at 8720 Macleod Trail S.E. and Queen of Bud, 1717 10 Avenue S.W.

On Wednesday, two stores — Four20 Premium Market and Nova Cannabis Willow Park, both along Macleod Trail S., welcomed hordes of Calgary’s first legal pot purchasers.

So many buyers flocked to the AGLC’s cannabis retail website early Wednesday morning, it crashed.

The AGLC said it’s possible there’ll be 80 to 100 cannabis shops ready to open within the next two weeks.


on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

'Accidental' pot retailer readies her store in historic house for next wave of openings

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