Handmade stained glass windows and a wooden sculpture created at the hands of local artists are among the many unique features in Black Diamond’s newest cannabis shop.
Musician and filmmaker Danielle French, of Millarville, and Calgary theatre actor Doug McKeag gathered their theatre and artist friends to create their unique store, Enlightened Herb Cannabis, in an old church building on Government Road.
“I worked in every arts organization in Calgary so I’m a musician and filmmaker and my business partner is an actor and writer,” said French, who grew up in Okotoks. “Because we’re in this really unique building, we treated it like a film set to make the space really interesting, to honour the space and to get our personalities into it.”
French and McKeag are treating Enlightened Herb Cannabis similar to an art gallery.
“We’re a boutique so we’re really focusing on curating our selection, curating the accessories and curating the space,” French said. “We’re trying to focus on local and feature some handmade objects because we’re very community oriented.”
When film production halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, French called upon the arts community to lend a hand with the store design.
Among the contributors were Calgary artist Bart Habermiller, who created a wooden sculpture installation titled Crescendo in the church vestibule, and Treena Primmer of Twist Design in Okotoks, who created custom, cannabis-leaf themed stained glass windows.
As for the décor, its uniqueness stands out with everything from an old pump organ to old highback church pew.
“The décor and furniture is all second hand,” said French. “Every item is like a real treasure found at a thrift store.”
When it comes to the product, French said every item is ordered with intention.
“It’s not taking the order sheet and randomly selecting, it’s doing the research so the customers don’t have to do it,” she said.
Much of French’s career was spent as a struggling artist, but that changed in 2015.
“When I started working in the film business I started making actual money and I began investing it,” she said. “I ended up investing in cannabis stocks before it was legalized. They did very well so I felt that a cannabis shop was the next natural step.”
As Canada prepared for the legalization of cannabis, which was official on Oct. 17, 2018, French began the process of putting together a business plan.
Shortly after cannabis was legalized, the federal government ran short on supply and French had to put her plans of opening the store on temporary hold. In the meantime, the church building she had planned to use for her shop was rented to someone else.
While searching for other locations in Black Diamond and Calgary, French was ecstatic to learn the space became available again after the previous renter moved to British Columbia.
“It felt like divine intervention,” she said. “This is just where we’re supposed to be.”
During the process of navigating the provincial regulations and municipal bylaws, French said she was told by Black Diamond administration that the church location she had selected wouldn’t work due to some issues, including a lack of adequate lighting in the back parking lot.
“We spoke to those issues and we showed how we were going to address them,” she said. “We were under the impression the problems might prevent us from being here but we had no issue with our development permit. There were some conditions, but they were reasonable.”
Two years later, French is a proud business owner of Black Diamond’s second cannabis shop. Eco Green Leaf opened earlier this summer on Centre Avenue.
“It’s a really exciting time to see the birth of a brand new industry,” said French. “I’m excited about the medical side of it and seeing how it can help people and being part of this brand new industry that I followed from day one.”
Enlightened Herb Cannabis is holding a grand opening ceremony Aug. 1 from 4:20 p.m. to 7:11 p.m., which will include tarot readings (by donation) and music on the in-store pump organ. On Aug. 2, a Sunday school cannabis education session will be held from noon to 1 p.m.
French said a portion of the shop’s profits will go to charitable organizations with a focus on supporting arts organizations.
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