First Woman to Own a Cannabis Store in Ontario Is a Greek-Canadian

credit: Monica Healy Photography

The CANVAS cannabis store in Ontario is expanding, with a new location in Mount Dennis in Toronto and its Greek-Canadian owner will donate 50 per cent of profits from its opening days to a local food bank.

The community-focused CANVAS store is the first residential cannabis retailer in Ontario to be solely owned and operated by a woman, the Greek-Canadian Helene Vassos.

With the opening of her second store, Vassos has also become the first licensee in all of Ontario to open a second location under her own retail operator license, rather than through a franchising model.

The announcement of the second store in Mount Dennis comes only months after Vassos’ entry in Ontario’s emerging cannabis retail business.

“From day one, we focused on building for the future and meeting the growing need for cannabis products within Toronto communities,” said Vassos, who became quickly known for CANVAS’ excellent customer service.

“Our goal has always been to bring a personal touch to the cannabis retail experience,” says Vassos, whose first store opened in December on the Danforth and has seen booming business since then.

Vassos also attributes part of the first CANVAS store’s success to its thriving neighborhood and sophisticated clientele.

Opening the second store in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was admittedly an unexpected part of Vassos’ growth plan.

Like its original location, the Mount Dennis  store will adhere to the strict coronavirus preventative measures required. A plexiglas shield at the front entrance for pick-up orders is set in place, hand sanitizer will be provided to all customers, appropriate social distancing will be adhered to and staff members will be wearing masks and gloves.

The traditionally warm customer service of the Danforth store will be provided at the Mount Dennis location as well.

“We know our customers by name, we engage with them, and we’ve formed strong relationships,” Vassos says. “It has been a wonderful, positive experience that I look forward to replicating in Mount Dennis.”

“You have to believe in yourself and your skills, and believe that you’ve created something that is of value to the community,” she adds.

Vassos says she has established high standards and procedures through ongoing collaboration with government agencies, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and her colleagues in the retail cannabis industry.