Acquiring a retail cannabis license and opening a store was already quite an accomplishment before everybody started covering their mouths. But, ARCannabis even put a notch on top and opened four different locations while faced with the various COVID-19 regulations.
We talked to ARCannabis’ Chief Operations Officer Aaron Sinnnathamby and their Regional Manager Matt Chernoff, who told us how they did so well during this uncertain time.
Facing the outbreak of a global pandemic
To fully understand AR’s story, we have to look back at last year’s 420.
While many of us were in deep grief about the cancellation of the annual 420 festival, the ambitious team of ARCannabis opened their first location in Vancouver on 225 SE Marine Drive.
And only one day later, their second one on 1290 E 12th Avenue.
Aaron took the lead of the brand new ARCannabis team as they opened their locations right when the first wave of Covid hit Vancouver. So, Aaron most definitely had a lot on his shoulders. To make the store opening a success, he had to ensure that all of their staff were not only trained in cannabis sales but also keep up with the Covid safety measurements to keep everyone safe.
“We were uncertain. We were scared. We didn’t know how the business would be. We didn’t know if the government would close us down. We didn’t know if things would get worse. We even lost some staff who were frightened about getting Covid. And all of this before we even opened our first location,” remembered Aaron.
Then he confidently continued, “So, at the time, there was a lot of doubt, caused by all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. But because it was our passion and because we do really believe in Cannabis, we knew that we would break through all of these challenges if we just provide the best value to our customers.”
And ARCannabis broke through all their challenges indeed. But, it wasn’t the first time that their team was challenged with establishing a retail cannabis brand. Thanks to their background of running a medical dispensary, ARCannabis’ leadership was already experienced in developing a successful cannabis business.
Getting used to the ‘new normal’
Now, besides getting used to the regulated cannabis market, they also had to learn how to keep up with the numerous COVID precautions that the government put in place.
“Ensuring that our staff and our customers are safe was most important for us,” explained Aaron, “We already took precautions before the government even made anything mandatory.”
But, what are all of these safety measurements that they had to implement?
Their first step to keeping everyone safe starts by making sure that no one of their staff is feeling unwell. Therefore, all of their employees are getting temperature checked before their shift and are required to wear a face mask at all times. Wearing a face mask is also a requirement for all customers because the number one rule at ARCannabis is, “No mask. No entry.” But, in the rare cases of someone forgetting their face covering, they hand out disposable ones.
The other Covid measurements include:
- Different occupancy limits at each location
- Plexi shields at all tills
- Multiple sanitizer stations for all staff and customers
- Gloves for all employees who are handling cash transactions
- Social distancing paths through their stores
- And generally keeping up with all the Work Safe BC protocols.
You can also find more information about ARCannabis’s Covid precautions in this blog post they published a few weeks ago.
Indeed, it took their team a while to get used to this new normality. But, once they adapted to all the sanitizing and telling people to pull their masks up, they were settled and ready to push for more.
Grinding through 2020 into 2021
And more business was already on the way for ARCannabis.
Only five months after opening their first two locations, they opened their third location in Vernon, on 1800 Kalamalka Road.
Followed one month later by their fourth store at 6528 Victoria Drive, Vancouver.
And since March this year, they’re also hosting a unique virtual cannabis cup, called the ARCannabis Cup, which is getting lots of attraction from consumers and producers all over the market.
AR’s secrets for success
So, what’s their secret? How could they accomplish so much in such a short time while being faced with so many restrictions?
One of the reasons why the team of ARCannabis performed so greatly during these crazy times is that they have pretty young staff who are all technology-based and know how to work on remote.
“We are tech guys. So, we adapted to using Zoom, Google Meet, or TeamViewer right away. No problem. We stayed contactless but operative and efficient,” said Aaron via video chat.
Another aspect that helped them stand out from their competitors is that, as former operators of medical dispensaries, their employees are highly passionate about cannabis and know what they’re looking for when ordering new products.
With a big smile on his face, Aaron explained to me that they’re not just weed smokers but cannabis connoisseurs.
He said, “before we opened any stores, we already tested tons of the legal products to know which brands we had to look out for. Even today, we are still taking a close look at all the products that are coming in to decide which ones we continue to purchase and which ones we should get rid of.”
The last and most essential of their secrets is, to say it in Aaron’s words, that they “stayed lean” during the entire time. What he means by that is that they prioritized their budgets for what mattered most when running a retail cannabis business.
“You know, a lot of these brand new cannabis retailers invest so much of their money in fancy store designs but don’t take care of the two most important aspects when running a cannabis shop.
The customers and the staff. So, we kept our stores very simple and similar to how cannabis stores used to look like back in the day,” explained Aaron, “This helped us to save a lot of money that we then could invest into the education of our staff and to outsource the best products on the market. A fancy store may attract a few customers, but it’s the budtender’s product knowledge and the ability to purchase the best products that will keep them coming back.”
As you can see, the staff of ARCannabis is well-versed in running a retail cannabis business. In addition, what makes all of their success even more impressive is that they did all of this with only five employees working in their headquarters.
Keep moving forward
Now that we know how much these guys could accomplish during the pandemic, it will be exciting to see where they take their business once we’re facing fewer restrictions.
But until then, we can be looking forward to the outcome of the ARCannabis Cup. The Cup is ending today, so make sure to check out their Instagram: @arcannabis.store to see which licensed producer they crown as the first-ever ARCannabis Cup Champion.
You can also find more information about the ARCannabis Cup in my last article.
If you’re already impressed by ARCannabis at the end of this article now, be ready for one more big surprise because ARCannabis is about to open its fifth store, which will be at the exact location as a former medical dispensary on 1353 E 41st Avenue, Vancouver.
The new location on 41st and Knight will have its soft open today, April 20 and its grand opening on April 30. So make sure to come around to celebrate ARCannabis’ fifth store opening at this legendary location.
Have you already been to one of the ARCannabis stores before?
How was your experience shopping for cannabis with all of the different Covid restrictions? And who do you think won the ARCannabis Cup?