By Christopher Mennillo
We weren’t always a Counter-Culture Club. We weren’t always a cannabis & accessory retail franchise. Once upon a time, we were just a simple headshop that my dad, Johnny, started in a flea market.
I’m skipping a few steps, let’s go back to the very beginning. The year is 1982 and my father is operating a semi-legitimate T-shirt printing business in the basement of his friend’s place. Being a workaholic, my dad was pulling almost 16-hour days, but at least things were going well. “Well,” being a relative term as my grandmother used to tell me stories of my dad driving home in third gear because he was too tired to shift. Or there is the time he fell asleep on the stairs on the way up to his bedroom.
I digress, production was going well and my father wanted to now up his sales.
But he wasn’t much of a salesman.
That is until he discovered hash. This magical concentration of cannabis unlocked something in his brain and in his words, “he became a salesman extraordinaire”.
This discovery ultimately led him away from manufacturing and into the world of retail, where he opened up his first flea market stand. He sold rock T-shirts and other apparel, but after months of trying to make it work, things looked
One day while sitting around people watching, he noticed a man walking around with a briefcase. My father watched as he approached all the stalls one by one. They all reacted similarly shaking their heads and waving him off. Until inevitably, he reached my father’s table, the last one before the exit.
The man spoke in desperation, opening his briefcase while ranting the words,
“Look, I’m not taking no for an answer. You’re the youngest guy in here, surely you have an open mind. Just take it on consignment, sell them for 10$ and put 5$ aside for me, I’ll be back in 2 weeks to check up on you”.
My father stood there in complete bewilderment as he looked down on a briefcase full of pipes. No one smokes out of pipes he thought, as he watched the man leave the flea
Less than an hour later every single pipe had been sold. Leading to a common expression in my family,
“If you want to be successful, do what everyone else is doing just do it better, OR do something that no one else is doing.”
From here, my father began to sell more and more cannabis accessories, until that was all he sold. He saved up every single dollar, until he was able to open his first brick and mortar location in Brossard, Qc.
That, unfortunately, did not last very long. About a week into opening the police walked in and instructed my father to close his doors or they would “find” a kilo of blow. After speaking with his attorneys my dad made the wise choice to move to Laval.
After all, what can you do when the police are the ones blackmailing you?
A few weeks later my father found himself painting the front of his new store, with his friend, Nick. Who while taking a break sat on a paint can and read his HighTimes magazine that he had bought in the US the week before. He was interrupted by a passerby walking by front of the store;
“Hey! Where did you get a HT magazine!? I’ll buy it off you, How’s 10$?” (Nick had paid 5$)
After the trade, the onlooker stood on the sidewalk reading his new magazine. A few moments later another man walked by and noticed the magazine. He then proceeded to buy it for 20$.
This got my father’s attention and resulted in him naming his store HighTimes. His logic?
"I want my store to be as successful as the magazine."
All good things come to an end, and 30 years later the real HighTimes sent a Cease and Desist, attached was a 7M$ ask.
But that is a story for another day…