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Pot dispensary is about more than just getting high, said owner, it’s also about education

If you would have asked John Shelegey three years ago if he would ever have contemplated getting into the legal marijuana dispensary business, he would have laughed.

The thought never would have crossed his mind.

For decades, Shelegey and his partners, Tom Laronde and Steve Beaudry, have been busy running their respective Subway and Freshii restaurants, but in 2019, they saw an opportunity after the federal government legalized the sale of marijuana.

Today, they own and operate three Cannabis Jacks marijuana dispensaries throughout Northern Ontario, with stores in Val Caron, Timmins and North Bay. A grand opening was held at the Val Caron location on Oct. 14, with live entertainment provided by the Shaft Bottom Boys and giveaways to customers. A fundraising barbecue was also held in support of the Sudbury Food Bank.

“Cannabis Jacks is a reinvention of what myself and my partners were doing for a very long time, which was food,” said John Shelegey. “With the legalization of cannabis, we looked into the retail aspect of it, and it was a pioneering opportunity that just seemed to make a lot of sense. The food business is getting tougher and tougher, and it was just time to reinvent ourselves.”

When searching for a brand for the store, Shelegey said he fell in love with the Cannabis Jacks name.

“I had limited knowledge, so I visited other locations and found a vast majority of them were just overwhelming,” he said. “Whereas, Cannabis Jacks  has a nice curated menu with a nice, easy flow to it, and it really resonated with it. We have had nothing but positive feedback from customers.”

What will set Cannabis Jacks apart from other pot shops is the customer experience, Shelegey said.

“We have a rock star team,” he said “This is all about engaging the customer, it’s not just a transaction. It’s about education and creating a relationship with our customers. We have so many regulars, they are almost like family.”

All three Cannabis Jacks stores owned by Shelegey and his partners were opened within 11 days of each other.

Marijuana dispensaries are highly regulated, so it took some time to get the licences in place, Shelegey said. The entire process started in late 2019, and all three stores opened in May this year.

“We couldn’t be any happier,” Shelegey said. “We did a lot of the work ourselves, so we have a lot of sweat equity in these three stores.”

Shelegey said Cannabis Jacks is more than just about getting stoned. There are many benefits to marijuana and its products.

“We have had customers come in and tell us they haven’t slept so well in years, and that’s what makes us feel great,” he said. 

Cannabis Jacks is staffed by about nine bud tenders, most of whom are local to the valley

“We’re a small, community-minded business, and at all of our locations, it’s the people who live in the communities that know the lay of the land, that know their neighbours,” Shelegey said.

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