Oceanic Releaf a big hit across the province.
For one expanding local company, Oceanic Releaf, the cannabis industry is a success story that is entirely homegrown.
Taylor Giovannini is the founder and president of the company, which she set up in 2017. The company is based in Burin, and all their product is cultivated at a former fish plant there. Giovannini says the idea for the company came to her naturally after helping a member of her family.
“We were trying to build our house and my husband’s grandfather really wanted to help but he just couldn’t because he was so stricken with (arthritis) pain,” said Giovannini. “I wasn’t really educated on cannabis at this point, but I dove in, did the research and suggested it to Walter.”
Initially reluctant to give it a try, her husband’s grandfather was eventually convinced, and she says that within a week, he was upright and walking without pain medication. From there she did more research and once the idea was fully formed, set out to create the company and became a licensed producer through Health Canada. Buying and retrofitting the former fish plant from the town of Burin was, she says, a natural fit.
“We wanted it to be a retail experience as opposed to a quick transaction, and we incorporated coffee into our business model to normalize it, all of our stores smell like coffee and not weed.”
Cannabis retailers in Newfoundland and Labrador are privatized, but remain regulated by the government. Oceanic’s flagship store in Burin (which opened in December 2020) was the first drive-thru cannabis retailer in Canada, one of the many things that Giovannini is proud to say sets her stores apart from others like it.
“We paved the way and did it right here at home,” she said.
The company wanted stores that were bright and welcoming so customers would feel comfortable asking questions.
“We wanted it to be a retail experience as opposed to a quick transaction, and we incorporated coffee into our business model to normalize it, all of our stores smell like coffee and not weed,” she said.
Charlene Samms works at the Torbay Road location in St. John’s.
“I think we have a little bit more education, we educate our customers on what they are intaking,” said Samms. “And I think the whole aesthetic is different, it’s bright and open. You don’t feel like you’re walking into a cannabis store, we have some beautiful local art and a lot of our merchandise on display. I love it.”
The former fish plant in Burin, which is now Oceanic’s cultivation facility, is 63,000 square feet. Approximately 25 per cent of that space is currently in use and the company can easily expand operations within the facility if demand requires it. The facility has the potential to produce 4,000 kilos a year. For that reason, Giovannini doesn’t think she’ll be looking for another fish plant to convert anytime soon.
“It’s been nice to see it grow, but I don’t think turning every closed down fish plant into a cannabis facility would be sustainable because we’d have too much,” Giovannini said.
Oceanic currently has five stores across the province – Burin, Port Aux Basque, Torbay Road in St. John’s, Whitbourne, and Stephenville.
Giovannini says plans are in place to open locations in Clarenville, Bonavista and second location in St. John’s on Kenmount Road.