The first panel after lunch at the Lift Cannabis Business Conference this past week focused on “retail realities” and featured leaders from across the consumer-facing side of the Canadian cannabis industry.
“I have a bit of a saying,” Steven Fry, the President and Co-founder of Sessions Cannabis said, “It’s probably not a very popular saying. But sometimes, poor is more.”
A speaker at Lift and Co Expo 2021, Fry was one of the first recipients in 2019 of Ontario’s deeply flawed lottery system for opening retail cannabis stores. After opening a Canna Cabana in Hamilton, Fry wrote a lengthy post for Toronto Life that is very illuminating.
“I’m always setting goals on a lark, whether it’s travelling to China, gutting my house or buying real estate,” Fry wrote. Despite multiple rental properties he states he lacked financing to actually open a store but that he applied for a license anyways. The provincial government fined him twice for not opening within the timeframe allotted for the license.
While navigating the sea of people wanting to partner with him he described some of his peers as selling “their souls to big companies who will profit off their licences for decades.” Fry now runs one of the largest chains of branded cannabis retail stores in Ontario. “When the new winners were announced,” he wrote of the second round of lottery winners, “I started hunting them down, just like I’d been hunted.”
In more than one place Fry is keen to mention he grew up in government subsidized housing. At the Lift and Co conference he used his specific cultural knowledge to educate other rich folks like him who might not have come from a government cesspool: “I look at baby bonus day, cheque day, pension day. [They’re] the biggest days, by a lot.”
The problem with Fry’s comments are not that he is stating what he considers a fact (Who collected the data? How? Was it incentivized?). It’s that when called out on how inaccurate, rude and unbecoming those statements are he doesn’t really apologize. Here are some statements issued by the company through their Instagram account to various readers.
“Thank you for your feedback. Sessions was started as a retail brand for everyone. From the connoisseur to the curious. We are sorry those comments did not reflect the value we put on each and every customer. Our teams are reviewing how we can get to know our customers and their communities better and have committed to making sure our words match our values going forward.”
Do you see the word “Sorry” or “Apologize”? They say sorry the comments don’t reflect what we actually mean but not sorry for saying them. And why do the teams have to do anything? It was the President who fucked up.
“Hey there, it’s actually Steven Fry here responding (I monitor this account). Agreed that my comment was not appropriate nor did it represent the values or reality of Sessions. When Sessions was started we envisioned a retail brand that would not only be everywhere but also be for everyone. We saw a lot of niche retail brands that were doing great things but we wanted Sessions to be the accessible and approachable space for anyone to explore cannabis products. Although no harm was meant at all, it is clear that it was not the right thing to say. I have spent time in almost all of our locations and can confidently say that our team welcomes every customer like they are our best customer. Our customers and the communities they live in are unique, valuable and important and I am committed to conveying that in everything we put forward. I take seriously your feedback seriously and thank you for your understanding and for helping push me and our team be better. Cheers. Steven ‘Big Fry Guy’.
So between a bunch of branding-related copy we can see Steve acknowledged what he said was not appropriate or ‘the right thing to say’. It also didn’t reflect the values of the thing that makes him money and that he created. Notice the words “sorry” or “apologize” still do not appear.
But then again, my Fry Guy showed us what to expect back when he wrote about himself in Toronto Life:
“At this rate, by our one-year anniversary in April, I’ll have sold more than a metric ton of cannabis. People always ask me if I’ve gotten stinking rich. I signed an NDA, so I can’t disclose specifics, but let’s just say it’s been six months and I’ve almost earned back my initial investment.”
That was two years ago.