It's been a long, stressful road for the owners of Lake Country's first legal retail cannabis store. On Saturday, their hard work finally paid off.
It's been more than seven months since the District of Lake Country gave municipal approval to Starbuds, and after a whole lot of waiting, owners Celine Fitzgerald and Gavin Meehan opened up the doors to the public Saturday morning.
After having their variance application for Starbuds Lake Country rejected by the district's council last December, the pair received an overwhelming amount of support from Lake Country residents. So much so, that council revoted on the application two weeks later, and it passed unanimously.
“It was unbelievable, everyone got up and cheered when it was 7-0 (votes),” Fitzgerald said at the store's soft opening Friday. “I don't think I could breathe for about two days after that, it was so exciting. Sort of like today and tomorrow.”
After the drama with council, Fitzgerald expected to be provincially licensed and have the doors open by January.
“We waited and waited and waited some more,” she said. “We were going, 'Oh my god, what if we never open?'"
Fitzgerald says the delay, and lack of communication from the province, was tough on them, both economically and emotionally.
“At some point, we had to dig deep to find that strength to keep going. We really couldn't go backwards, we already had too much invested, and we couldn't go forwards because we didn't have a licence, so we were stuck in limbo,” she said. “I think that's the hardest part – not knowing.
“If they could, in the future, say, 'It will take you six months,' at least people know that they are going to open in six months. None of this, you think every month that this is the month.”
Fitzgerald and Meehan finally got the call earlier this month.
"They called us, and I tell you, I'm sure their ears were probably deaf by the time they finished talking with us," Fitzgerald said with a laugh. "It was great."
After the soft launch Friday, Starbuds was opened to the public Saturday at 9 a.m. and will remain open until 9 p.m. The store is currently offering 46 different strains from licensed producers across Canada, along with pre-rolled joints, oils and capsules.
“I'm just glad it's finally opening,” Fitzgerald said. “We've had lots of calls over the last few months: 'When are you opening?'”