If all goes according to plan, the Chad 420 Smoke Shop, the first of its kind in Athabasca, will open this Friday and owner Chad Wentworth couldn’t be happier.
“I decided to open up a store in Athabasca many years ago but I didn’t want to do it back then because I didn’t have enough stores and just case in didn’t work so well. So I wanted to get enough stores to be able to support it,” said Wentworth on Thursday.
The list of merchandise is his newest store is long, and includes hoodies, t-shirts, flags, scales, tobacco, grinders, water pipes, hookas, chewing tobacco and cigars.
The Athabasca location will be his fifth. Other stores include Leduc, Brooks, Sherwood Park and Olds, where he opened his first store in 2006.
For the most part, Wenworth said reception in other communities has been very good.
“When we opened up our first store in Olds, there was a little bit of a dispute with some of the seniors, they didn’t want it there. But that blew over really quick,” he explained.
In Sherwood Park, Wentworth said he received an especially warm welcome.
“The mayor actually came by and shook my hand and thanked me for opening such a respectable smoke shop. He didn’t want certain things on the window,” said Wentworth, adding that he put an 18+ sign up in his Sherwood Park store.
“He was happy with that and we did it really well. We had it all painted, put down a new floor, everything was nicely put together so we he was very happy with that,” he added.
Wentworth said he is trying to do the same thing at his Athabasca store, which will be open to all ages.
“We’re working with a much older building than we did in Sherwood Park so it’s a little harder.”
Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell said she has had a couple of negative comments from residents.
“I’ve actually checked with the police, and they are engaging in a legal activity,” said Powell, adding that council will likely discuss the matter this evening at their Municipal Planning Commission meeting.
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do. We used to restrict and I suppose we still could, the hours of business,” she said.
“We have the ability to do that sort of thing and where can you go from there? It’s one of these things where you have legal rights versus community standards and they’re not always the same thing.”
Another option, she said, would be to include something in the town’s land-use bylaw, which is currently being amended.
“Maybe that’s where we should be looking at this sort of thing, maybe it’s through the business licensing bylaw, I don’t know yet,” she said.
Wentworth said he plans to display adult items, such as water pipes at the back of the store and keep clothing items and flags at the front.
“If people only want to come in for cigarettes, they only have to come not even half way through the store to get them so they don’t have to be in the area that they don’t like to see,” he said.
“Some people at some of my other stores, they gave me that idea but my other stores aren’t nearly as big as thing one so it’s really hard,” he added.
Asked about the name of his store, Wentworth said “420” is a more respectable reference to marijuana.
“It’s a national holiday for most people who smoke. Usually people take that day off and celebrate that day. It’s just like Canada Day, but it’s Cannabis Day,” he explained.
“It’s a reference toward marijuana but we don’t have any picture. Instead of a marijuana leaf, it’s 420, it’s much more respectable to the people who don’t want to see it.”
Opening up a store in Athabasca is something that Wentworth said he has wanted to do for a long time.
“It’s my hometown of 20 years and I’ve always wanted to come here and I was thinking that it was going to be my 7th (store) but my mom really needed a job and the location was here and the rent was really cheap so I grabbed it now or else I would have waited a couple more years.”
Wentworth said he already has his business license from the Town of Athabasca and is currently waiting for a permit to put up a sign in front of his store.