Dropping A Dimes

Restaurateur JP Adamo has been building his cache of high-end restaurants like Bar Piquette and the soon-to-open Crosley’s, on Toronto’s bustling Ossington Avenue. Adamo, with a strong retail background and sophisticated eye for design, is also opening Dimes, a licensed cannabis retailer on Toronto’s Queen Street West thoroughfare. Ben Kaplan spoke with Adamo about his vision for giving Torontonians the best of both worlds: food, and weed.
  • BK: I’ve heard of lots of experienced operators stepping into cannabis, but never quite someone with your background.

    JP Adamo: Originally, I was looking at the cultivation side, so a few years ago we explored that world. My family has over 35 years of experience in hospitality and we saw an opportunity to branch out and become an LP, a licensed producer.

  • BK: What happened?

    JP: At the end of the day, we were a couple years too late. The timing didn’t add up. However, I became very intrigued by the cannabis world.

  • BK: And that world now has shifted, from owning an LP to owning a retail location?

    JP: I have a background in wine and my family built a winery with a retail store and we certainly saw a similarity between wine and cannabis, in terms of taste profiles, terpenes, and the complexity of cannabis.

  • BK: Do you personally have any feelings for legalized weed?

    JP: I do. My aunt was diagnosed with cancer and that led my research into the wellness side of cannabis and as I did my research, I saw parallels between my business in owning a wine shop and the natural progression of cannabis into the retail side of the industry.

  • BK: The retail industry of cannabis, especially now in Toronto, especially now in Toronto on Queen Street West, appears to be very competitive.

    JP: I think that’s definitely true, but I also come from a very competitive industry. The same arguments can be made about the number of bars and restaurants on busy streets like Queen West, but I think what separates your bar from the bar across the street goes even beyond just owning a beautiful store. You have to own a beautiful store, but that’s just for starters.

  • BK: So what’s the differentiator?

    JP: It’s my philosophy that you can build a beautiful restaurant, hotel or retail location, but that’s only part of the bargain. It’s about how you make people feel.

  • BK: What do you mean?

    JP: The service, quality and experience have to be harmonious or else you’ll be the shopping or dining equivalent of ‘one and done.’ It’s exactly like with restaurants and in both cases—our restaurants and Dimes—we don’t want to be one and done. We want to be locked into the neighbourhood, become your local.

  • BK: And how will you go about doing that?

    JP: I’m from Toronto. I’m not coming in from the west coast and planting my seeds here. I understand the Queen West neighbourhood. I have a bar here and I’m opening another one on Ossington Avenue. I’ve been here in the service industries and I understand the neighbourhood intimately. I’m looking at partnering with our colleagues in the area.

  • BK: What do you mean?

    JP: From merchandising through local Queen West companies to ceramic pipes and bongs made locally, it’s that integration that I found is the number one thing that consumers want.

  • BK: Shop local, of course.

    JP: Exactly, plus I’ve seen a lot of stores open and I just feel like it’s a confusing landscape for new users. Again to draw another parallel with the wine industry, maybe 10% of the population knows what they want, but 90% of the people are afraid to ask questions. You see this with wine lists and you see this as the cannabis counters: what’s the difference between indica and sativa? So we want to make the shopping experience easy and visual, plus we have a highly trained staff to tear down the barriers.

  • BK: I almost never understand a fancy restaurant’s wine list, but I am usually sort of stoned.

    JP: Well, I think people are afraid to ask stupid questions and we’ve integrated that into our cannabis stores, breaking things down into methods of consumption and category intent. I think investing in a lot of the little things will be our differentiator.

  • BK: Sounds good, man. And welcome to the wide world of weed.

    JP: Thanks, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. And the big thing to tell your readers is that we don’t see our customers as transactions. We want to create that neighbourhood spot that even if you can go left or go right to get your cannabis, you’ll come to us because we’re the sum of our parts. A small store offering that boutique experience.