The chocolate factory is up and running again in Smiths Falls.
10 years after the closure of the Hershey chocolate plant in the eastern Ontario town, Canopy Growth has resurrected the community; once thought to be hopeless following the loss of 800 jobs.
“It was sad days when Hershey closed. People lost their jobs, they left. It was becoming barren; but now there’s a resurgence, a sense of hope,” said Drew Gilmour of Hummingbird Chocolate from Almonte.
Gilmour and his wife Erica started the company 7 years and have since partnered with Canopy Growth’s Tweed in a manufacturing facility where Hershey first opened 56 years ago.
“When I was a kid, you would see all these machines going on like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and now it’s much the same thing,” said Drew Gilmour.
“We are going to make some of the best cannabis chocolate in the world here in Smiths Falls,” said Eric Gilmour.
Their cannabis-infused chocolate products hit retail pot stores in mid-December.
Mark Zekulin is Canopy Growth Corporation’s CEO. Zekulin said the biggest stumbling block for potential consumers is erasing the stigma and past negative experiences associated with edibles such as brownies, chocolates, drinks and candies.
“The problem with edibles historically is its all black market, it's all from your neighbour who brought it over and you had a bad experience and we can overcome that,” he said.
Zekulin said offering cannabis drinks and chocolate bars is the next big thing in the recreational pot economy.
“We have to see more stores in Ontario and we have good signs from the government but that has to move quickly because people need somewhere to buy cannabis at the need of the day other than the black market.”
Ottawa currently has three retail stores including Fire and Flower, Superette and Hobo in and around the downtown core; with plans for three more stores to open in the coming months. Two locations have been tapped for Orleans and Barrhaven.
Real estate brokers in Smiths Falls said the cannabis industry has created a windfall for the housing market.
“We can’t keep up, but that's a good thing,” said Remax broker Jacalyn Grimes. “In some scenarios we've seen a 25 percent increase in our market.”