How Prairie Records’ Adam Coates Realized a New Vision For Cannabis Retail
Westleaf Cannabis Inc.’s Prairie Records feels more like a record store than a cannabis shop, and that’s the point.
With three locations in Saskatchewan and plans to expand in Western Canada, the brand reinvents the cannabis experience by linking it to the universal language of music as a way to build a community.
Bringing over his experience from the beverage industry, Westleaf’s Chief Commercial Officer, Adam Coates, describes how he spearheaded this unique retail concept in a landscape as dizzying as cannabis.
What was your background before Westleaf?
My career started at Labatt Breweries of Canada, where I spent about seven years in a variety of roles. I never really thought about cannabis as a career opportunity until it began to pick up in the mainstream, heading towards legalization – around 2017 – that I evaluated the opportunities in the space. I always wanted to do something entrepreneurial – to create and build brands from scratch. When presented with a consulting opportunity in the cannabis realm, I decided to join this industry when I’d never have the opportunity to again. Taking a once-illegal product and being at the forefront of helping to shape the industry with marketing and branding really appealed to me. There was an opportunity to create something meaningful that could leave a legacy. I then recognized a good fit with Westleaf.
What was the inspiration behind Prairie Records?
It initially came down to a bit of research. The first thing I said was that I didn’t want to call our retail concept Westleaf – there are already too many ‘leafs’ in the space. We needed a unique concept in the sea of sameness in the retail space. We considered how we could recruit consumers from the black market to legal cannabis, knowing that the price points would differ quite significantly at these shops; we had to create something interesting in-store. We wanted to elevate the category and move away from the stereotypical Cheech and Chong association through our brand storytelling. At Labatt, I realized that part of the success of craft brewers was attributed to the communities they built and joined. In the beer industry, one of the most iconic rituals is that lime in the Corona bottle. We thought about how we could bring a ritual into our brand that would differentiate our business when consumers walk in the door. With a focus on ritual and community building, we landed in the music community.
Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?
No day is really the same; I touch a variety of aspects of the business. We’re in construction of two new facilities and always working on our brands and product rollouts. I work on the communications and marketing efforts, driving awareness and engagement with consumers all the way to the in-store design, customer experience, and shopping journeys. Part of my job also involves negotiating with Licensed Producers for product and pricing, as well as exploring new opportunities and partnerships for the brand. When we open new stores, we look for collaborations with local artists and are considering new opportunities on the technology side. It’s about finding ways to work within the marketing regulations and to drive engagement and awareness with our consumers. There is a lot of travel involved as well; I’m on a plane once or twice a week between visiting locations in western Canada, and partners in Toronto.
What fuels your passion for Prairie Records?
I feel like it’s my childhood in a lot of ways. What gets me most excited is that we’re truly doing something different. A dream and vision for Prairie Records is to be recognized as one of the top brands in cannabis retail and part of elevating the entire industry category. Our retail concept offers canna-curious consumers an atmosphere that helps educate about the product and how to incorporate cannabis into their lifestyle. The space feels comfortable – it’s cool; it’s unique – and you don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong. It’s the job of people who work in the industry to elevate the category and depart from the stereotypical – and that’s a lot of fun. Uniting cannabis and music isn’t a gimmick, it’s reflective of everything we do in the store; we use it as a base for education, and to create a familiar, comfortable and unique environment worth visiting.