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CANNABIS XPRESS in NB & ON

Chris Jones took a different tact than others when opening cannabis retail stores—and his success has so far proven the business model works.

With CANNABIS XPRESS, Jones targets small communities where there are no other stores. He keeps his buildout costs low (often doing much of the work himself opening stores) and curating a limited inventory of products.

Targeting Smaller Towns

“I live in Toronto and knew that the market here would be saturated, and I decided to open up stores in smaller towns that were underserved,” says Jones, founder and CEO of the company, which currently has 14 stores in Ontario and two in New Brunswick.

“The thing I enjoy most from a business perspective about these smaller towns is that they’re growing in population,” he notes. More people are moving out there because they can work remotely. The costs of opening a store are significantly lower. If we’re the only one in town, we just open and people come.”

First Private Store in New Brunswick

In 2023, Jones opened the first private cannabis store in New Brunswick after the province allowed private stores in 10 smaller communities, which created a perfect opportunity for the CANNABIS XPRESS model.

Jones applied for all 10 locations in New Brunswick and was awarded the right to apply for three licenses due to an ownership cap in the province. He opened his first store in Grand Bay-Westfield and opened up a second location in February 2024 on Main Street in Hampton. A third location will be opening in the summer of 2024 on Water Street in St. Andrews. This will make CANNABIS XPRESS the largest private retailer in the province of New Brunswick.

“On a personal level, it’s nice to venture out and see different places that I wouldn’t normally see,” explains Jones. “I probably would not have explored so much of New Brunswick if it weren’t for this business.”

An Entrepreneurial Family

Jones was raised by an entrepreneurial father who took him to office meetings during his childhood. He was always interested in starting his own business, too, toying at one point in his younger years with the idea of selling a spray that would get the smell of cannabis out of a room, which ultimately did not turn into a business.

Seeing cannabis emerge as a viable business through legalization, he wanted in. “I knew the industry was huge and would only continue to get bigger as regulations developed and the right infrastructure was built to support the industry,” he says.

Chris JonesJones finished his MBA at McMaster University and went to work at a publicly traded Canadian cannabis M&A company where he learned how to find an accretive business opportunity and then take it all the way to closing of the transaction and then integration—a skill that would come in handy.

Around that time, Ontario held two lotteries for licenses to open cannabis stores. Jones spoke to hundreds of families, friends, and acquaintances hustling to find investors. Getting access to capital, Jones eschewed big city locations, instead opening in smaller Ontario towns.

As the pandemic forced stores to close in bigger cities, smaller towns allowed stores to remain open. After the success of his first cannabis retail business, the original investors eventually made him an offer to buy out his ownership in the business.

The Start of CANNABIS XPRESS

With that experience under his belt and having formed a new highly experienced team, Jones went on to start CANNABIS XPRESS, with the first location in Brampton, Ontario. He’s opened a new store every month and a half for two years and now has about 55 employees.

“CANNABIS XPRESS is now in the top one per cent of profitable cannabis companies in the country, and we have done this by having a lean team and executing on our strategy of picking the right locations,” he describes.

While other stores carry more than 1,000 products, which customers can find overwhelming, CANNABIS XPRESS stores carry about 180 unique cannabis products as well as about 30 accessory items. “Having a limited selection helps the transaction go quicker,” he says, adding staff are better trained about the products that are in stock.

Product decisions are made by not only speaking with customers and getting feedback, but by analyzing data to see what trends are emerging and staying on top of new product launches and seasonal items.

NOTE: Article updated April 5, 2024

Tags: cannabis entrepreneur (3), cannabis retailer (81), cannabis store New Brunswick (1), CANNABIS XPRESS (2), Chris Jones (2), private cannabis store (4)