Benji Andri illustrates as an easy-going guy who’s aptly into indica, but occasionally enjoys a hit of Pink Kush with his morning cup of coffee: a best bud whom you’d never miss a chance to pass a joint around with. He recently accepted a new position at Edition X to help open a new St. Clair location in Toronto and to assist in curating the store’s menu.
As someone who’s only been legal since August 2019, he says the legalization of cannabis enforced what he knew from a young age.
“Cannabis was very destigmatized to me; my mother was an AMCPR patient,” he explains. “From a young age, I knew if my mom was using it as medicine, it’s not what everyone says it was.”
He rejected the old-fashioned thinking that it’s something only hippies or criminals enjoy, adding, “It really helped strengthen my beliefs in it and almost helped enforce my passion.”
A good menu acts like a storyboard; it tells a tale of experiences and creates conversations. Menu curation ranks high.
“I like to have product that I enjoy myself on the store’s menu,” he says. “When looking at the menu, there are a bunch of different product categories, so I like to have a really diverse menu but full of the highest quality products that I have tried myself.”
Bringing in new products that other stores don’t carry is something he also feels makes a store unique.
“I’m a really big fan of having items that the whole team has tried that we can easily sell and speak highly of to the customer.”
Part of Andri’s selection process is to take products home and put himself in the customer’s shoes, checking for things like the packaging and their overall visual appeal. For dried flower, he’ll analyze the different expectations he would have as a consumer: is the terpene profile there? Does it have a strong aroma? How do the buds themselves look? Are they densely covered in dry cones?
Reviewing the type of high that items elicit, he factors in the level of high, if it’s enjoyable, functional or too couch-lock-like.
“I really like to look at everything as a consumer because at the end of the day they are the people we’re selling to. I want to make sure the consumer will be happy with it.”
What makes a good budtender? “Someone that actually listens to the customer,” he answers, recalling days when he’d go into a store asking for something specific.
“The first thing they would recommend would be a product on sale they’re just trying to move or the most popular product that wasn’t related to what I was looking for. It was really frustrating. That’s part of why I wanted to get into the industry—to help change that.”
Listening is important, but the conversation is too. When people come into the shop without a clue of what to buy, he’ll strike up a conversation to get an idea of their wants and needs.
“I’ll ask them about the type of experience they want to have, what types of experiences they’ve had in the past, and what products they’ve tried before and liked or not liked,” he explains. “I’ll ask them about new experiences they might be open to trying, such as vaping. That’s new to a lot of people. Asking a lot of questions can get you to a lot of places with the customer and open up conversations that they may not have expected before they walked into the store.”