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Staying power

At 181, Nova Scotia’s Frieze and Roy is celebrated as Canada’s oldest general store

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 3.52.06 PMScreen Shot 2020-07-27 at 3.54.09 PMEverybody in the community of Maitland, NS, roughly 90 kilometres from Halifax, knows that you can get potato chips, lottery tickets, and even maple syrup at Frieze and Roy. While they enjoy the convenience of shopping, and dining, at their local c-store and adjoining cafe, they also appreciate the store’s biggest selling feature: its commitment to community.

Indeed, that is the reason co-owner Troy Robertson purchased the store eight years ago. The decision to buy, he says, was less about business and more about what the store meant to the town of approximately 8,200 people. “It’s the heart of the community. It’s where people drop in. It’s where people leave messages for one another.” 

People in Maitland have been doing all that—and more—at Frieze and Roy for 181 years. For much of the 1800s, it was a focal point for the shipbuilding trade. As that century was coming to a close, the shop became more of a general store offering customers everything from farm tools to fine china. Today, Frieze and Roy is recognized as Canada’s oldest general store.

That rich history contributes to the bottom line today. The store has been featured in articles and on television and continues to draw media attention. “People are interested in stuff that has been around for a long time,” says Robertson. 

To meet tourist’s needs, the store offers a range of souvenirs. In particular, notes Robertson, “they want something with the word ‘Maitland’ or ‘Frieze and Roy, Canada’s oldest general store’ on it. If people are flying, they like a gift that is smaller than 12 inches.”

Meeting the very specific needs of customers is central to Robertson’s business philosophy. “I watch what people buy. I ask them what they want. I tailor my inventory to my customers,” he says.  

That includes offering them the option of purchasing liquor. Frieze and Roy is one of the select convenience stores licensed by the government of Nova Scotia to sell wine, beer and spirits: 9% of sales are alcohol, notes Robertson. “You have to bring something in to draw people in.” 

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 3.54.37 PMIn addition to ensuring customers find what they need, and what they want, Robertson has worked to make the store a gathering place. That work started when he purchased the admittedly deteriorating building and essentially gutted the interior, creating a c-store on one side and the Mudslide Cafe on the other. In the middle (a shared buffer between the two businesses) is a gift shop that supports both operations. 

“The goal was to create a feeling that people are going to an old place that is comfortable,” says Robertson. “We are not Shoppers Drug Mart. We do not want to look or feel like Shoppers Drug Mart.”

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 3.55.02 PMMany locals prefer to shop local, he adds. “The lines are smaller. It’s faster. It’s their community. People want to go someplace that doesn’t feel like a mall.” 

Nothing could feel less cookie-cutter than the town of Maitland itself. Only an hour’s drive from the province’s capital city, the town sits on the edge of the Cobequid Bay, an inlet off the Bay of Fundy, which boasts the world’s highest tides. “There are few places like this left,” says Robertson.

The same could be said of the Frieze and Roy general store.


Frieze and Roy’s tips for a successful store

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 3.53.57 PMImprint. Running a c-store is a lifestyle and a lifestyle choice, says Troy Robertson. It’s also hard work, he notes. “You can’t put in your 40 hours and go home.”

Inhale. Building a business takes time, says Robertson. “You need patience and flexibility to grow the business.”

Increase. C-stores can expand their reach and improve the bottom line through strategic partnerships with suppliers –and with each other, says Robertson, who would like to see the sector share information and purchase collectively. “There really is power in numbers.” 



Nova Scotia making mask wearing mandatory in most indoor public places by July 31

C-stores are included in the new rules

Nova Scotia is making mask-wearing mandatory in most indoor public places beginning July 31 – even for performers singing at concerts.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said today the measure is necessary to minimize any potential second wave of COVID-19.

The indoor places where masks will be mandatory include retail businesses, shopping centres, hair salons, places of worship, sports facilities, elevators, hallways, and common areas of offices.

People entering restaurants or bars will have to wear a mask until they begin eating or drinking.

Strang says people leading religious services or performers at concerts will have to wear masks even while speaking or singing, adding athletes should wear masks indoors except during an activity where a mask cannot be worn.

Masks will also be required in the public areas of a university or college campus, such as the library or student union building, but not inside classrooms, labs, offices or residences.

Face coverings will also be expected in train and bus stations, ferry terminals and airports. Children under two years old are exempt, as are children aged two-to-four years old when their caregiver cannot get them to wear one. People with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are also exempt.

Strand told a news conference: “It’s time to make a habit of wearing a non-medical mask in most indoor public settings. It’s our best chance to keep our communities as open as possible as we move into the fall and a possible second wave of COVID-19.”

Strang said businesses can refuse entry to customers not wearing a mask, unless they are among the small group who for medical and other reasons are exempt from the requirement.

He said he expects the vast majority of citizens will voluntarily comply. “Are there going to be some people who don’t (wear masks)? Yes,” he said. “But we have to come at it from a positive, constructive approach and one way is to ensure access to masks isn’t an issue.”

“Taking a strong, heavy-handed enforcement approach isn’t going to work in a situation like this,” he said.


Nova Scotia sets tough maximum nicotine level for vaping products



Nova Scotia has approved a new regulatory cap on e-liquids and cigarettes making it the first province to adopt a maximum nicotine concentration of 20 milligrams per millilitre.

An order in council signed in May amends the province’s Tobacco Access Act regulations and takes effect Sept. 1.

The move follows an amendment passed in March that banned flavoured vaping products.

The Canadian Cancer Society says Nova Scotia’s maximum nicotine level is the same standard that has been in place in the 28-country European Union for some years.

In an email, the provincial Health Department says the regulatory changes will enhance efforts to protect youth from the harms of nicotine by reducing their exposure to highly addictive concentrations.

A 2016-17 survey suggested 37% of Nova Scotia students in grades 7 to 12 had tried vaping at least once – one of the highest rates in Canada.

In a news release, the Canadian Cancer Society noted a recent study by University of Waterloo researchers that found youth vaping among 16-19 year-olds in Canada more than doubled over a two-year period, from 2017 to 2019.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that youth vaping increased from 8.4% in 2017 to 17.8% in 2019 – a 112% increase.

“This dramatic increase in youth vaping has been after tobacco companies entered the Canadian market for e-cigarettes following legalization of e-cigarettes with nicotine in May 2018,” the cancer society said.

It also noted that last November, British Columbia announced it would adopt a regulation for a maximum nicotine level of 20 milligrams per millilitre. The regulation is yet to be adopted.

The Quebec and federal governments have also said that they are considering the measure.

A vaping industry group said that the Nova Scotia government’s move would “make it harder for heavy smokers to quit and do little to combat access by youth.

“The result is that smokers may stay smoking, vapers may go back to smoking or vapers may try to obtain higher nicotine and flavoured products from the illicit market or from other provinces,” the Vaping Industry Trade Association said in a statement.



Nova Scotia to regulate nicotine levels in e cigarettes in proposed legislation

shutterstock_766102951Proposed legislative changes in Nova Scotia would give the province regulatory authority over the nicotine content of tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Health Minister Randy Delorey says the move is aimed at protecting youth from potentially hazardous nicotine levels and builds on a ban he announced on flavoured vaping products in December.

Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to ban flavours, and Delorey says the details of the nicotine regulations will be established at a later date.

Delorey says another change would broaden the definition of tobacco to include types of tobacco-free nicotine products.

Nova Scotia’s ban on flavoured e-cigarettes takes effect April 1.

Under Nova Scotia’s current law, vaping products cannot be sold to anyone under 19.

In Tuesday’s spring budget, the province’s Liberal government said that as of Sept. 15, it will tax vaping liquids at about 50 cents per millilitre and 20% of the retail value of all vaping devices. The annual take is expected to be about $4.3 million.

Many typical vaping devices hold slightly less than a millilitre of fuel, meaning the tax on a package of four would total about $1.50.



Brisk early sales of weed edibles at Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. outlet

Stocking stuffers with a kick moved briskly off the shelves at Nova Scotia’s government-operated cannabis shops and at other Canadian vendors that managed to bring in a supply during the leadup to Christmas.

In showing off the early offerings of various “edibles” at a Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet on Christmas Eve, spokeswoman Bev Ware noted quite a few cupboards were already bare.

“Judging by conversations I heard in the lineups on Monday, it seems people are buying them as stocking stuffers and some for their own enjoyment on Christmas Eve,” she said.

Ware said lineups of customers filled the store on December 23rd, and all of the chocolate, mint and chewable types of marijuana products were sold out by day’s end.

Customers doing last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve had to content themselves with various infused teas and vaping products at the Clyde Street location in downtown Halifax.

Ware laid out a few samples, such as CBD-infused vanilla rooibos tea bags that were going for just under $8 each.

Regulations governing next-generation cannabis products such as edibles, beverages, vapes and topical forms of cannabis came into effect on Oct. 17 – exactly one year after Canada legalized recreational pot.

Due to the mandatory 60-day notice period companies must provide to Health Canada before selling these products, the earliest they could legally go on sale was mid-December.

Companies have been unveiling details of products ranging from spring water to mints that contain CBD and THC, the two active ingredients found in cannabis.

These cannabis-derived products are subject to strict regulations, including a cap on the level of active ingredients and rules around packaging.

In the Nova Scotia stores, there’s a quantity limit of 30 grams or its equivalent per customer for marijuana edibles, extracts and topicals.

“It can be difficult for people to figure out, so our employees will help them do the equivalents,” said Ware.

PEI Cannabis was also selling edibles on Christmas Eve, with some products available since last Thursday, a saleswoman at the Charlottetown shop said Tuesday. A spokesperson wasn’t available to indicate how sales were going.

The British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch said in an email that it has registered more than 260 individual products that fall within the new categories of edibles, extracts and topicals.

“The first shipments of the new classes of legal products were received last Wednesday and shipped out to retailers Thursday,” wrote Viviana Zanocco.

Zanocco said the wholesale website sold out in 30 minutes, as did the online store.

“Customers can expect to see them on shelves of legal retail stores shortly – that depends on each store’s shipping schedule,” she added.

However, in Alberta and Ontario, consumers will have to wait until 2020 for offerings.

Heather Holmen, communications manager for Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission, said in an emailed statement that her province’s 380 private retailers won’t have the products until next month.

“Once product is ordered, shipped to us, received and put into inventory, retailers will be able to place their orders,” she wrote.

“Factor in order processing and shipping time to retailers, that brings us to mid-January before consumers will be able to find product on store shelves.”

The AGLC is still in discussions with licensed producers to determine the types of products will be offered from about half of the 42 producers who will be participating, Holmen said.

In Ontario, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Cannabis Store said stores would begin selling on Jan. 6.

Joanna Hui, communications manager for OCS, said the agency has been receiving “a very small amount of cannabis edibles and vapes from producers that were ready to deliver these products at the earliest legal opportunity.”

“Our licensed producer partners are aware of consumer interest in these new product types and are working around the clock to begin delivering these products to Ontario.”

It’s expected the selection will be “limited” initially, but will grow through January and February, said Hui.

Sales are also only expected to start in Quebec beginning on Jan. 1, according to published reports earlier in December. A spokesman was unavailable for further comment.

Vaping products have come under particular scrutiny after more than 1,400 related lung illnesses in the U.S. have been reported _ many of them involving THC-containing products – as well as recently diagnosed cases in several provinces.

Health Canada said in an emailed statement that it is not delaying the legalization of pot vapes, but is actively monitoring the situation on both sides of the border.

It “will take additional action, if warranted and as appropriate, to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” the government agency has said.


Vaping backlash: Nova Scotia bans flavoured e cigarettes, Ontario mulls the same

A nationwide clamp down on vaping continued Thursday as Nova Scotia announced a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes, while Ontario hinted that it may soon do the same.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey announced the province will be the first to ban sales of flavoured e-cigarettes and juices in regulatory changes that take effect April 1, 2020.

“This decision is in response to our concerns about the growth in particular of youth vaping,” said Delorey.

Though Nova Scotia has drastically reduced youth smoking rates in the last 30 years, that progress has been stalled by the popularity of flavoured vaping products, he said.

“This is not just about reducing vaping access and use, but it’s also a means to stem potential transfers into traditional tobacco usage as well,” Delorey said.

Between 2017-18, the number of young people smoking and vaping in Canada increased for the first time in several decades, Delorey said.

A recent survey conducted by Smoke Free Nova Scotia suggested 95 per cent of young Nova Scotians who vape said they preferred flavoured juices – and 48% of those surveyed said they would quit if flavours were banned.

A 2016-17 survey suggested 37% of Nova Scotia students in grades 7 to 12 had tried vaping at least once – one of the highest rates in Canada.

Delorey said the province plans to roll out a public education campaign and more vaping legislation next year. Under Nova Scotia’s current law, e-cigarette products cannot be sold to anyone under 19.

Delorey wouldn’t tip his hand on what further restrictive steps would be included in new legislation, but said he has taken notice of what’s being done in other provinces. He said it’s also important that any potential changes align with steps taken at the federal level.

“It doesn’t make sense to duplicate the legislative and regulatory framework between the federal and provincial jurisdictions, so what’s being done at the federal level will have some influence and impact on what we decide to do here provincially,” he said.

Also on Thursday, Ontario’s health minister said her province is also considering a ban on flavoured vaping products. Ontario has already said it would ban the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores and gas stations beginning next month.

“We do know there is more to be done so we are taking a look at the flavoured vapes,” Christine Elliott said. “We are looking at the nicotine content in vapes. We are looking at where vaping products should be sold … we will be taking more steps, absolutely.”

Ontario Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the province should follow Nova Scotia’s example and ban flavoured vaping products.

“Given the number of teens vaping now that’s becoming a huge issue and we need to stop that,” he said.

New restrictions on vaping were recently adopted in Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The P.E.I. government passed legislation last month that sets the highest age limit in the country, raising the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes from 19 to 21.

The legislation also bans certain flavours of e-cigarettes and restricts where the products can be sold.

In British Columbia, a 10-point plan is aimed at protecting youth from the health risks of vaping, including legislation that would boost the provincial sales tax on such products from seven per cent to 20 per cent.

Earlier this week, Newfoundland and Labrador banned the introduction of cannabis vape products when pot consumables go on sale later this month.

In November, several health advocacy groups called on the Nova Scotia government to take urgent action to curb what they called a youth vaping epidemic.

Kelly Cull, of the Canadian Cancer Society, called Thursday’s move an “excellent first step.”

She said she’d like to see upcoming legislation raise the minimum age to 21, restrict where e-cigarette products can be sold, cap nicotine levels, and ban online sales.

Robert MacDonald, president and CEO of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, said the province should also consider taxation as a means to reduce vaping.

“We’ve seen that in tobacco (and) it’s reduced rates,” said MacDonald.

In the United States, 47 deaths have been attributed to vaping, and 2,000 cases of severe lung disease have been reported.

Thirteen cases of vaping-associated lung illness had been reported in Canada as of Dec. 3. So far there have been no deaths.


Nova Scotia and Alberta reviewing vaping regulations

Government in Alberta and Nova Scotia are reviewing laws and regulations around vaping products.

In Nova Scotia, Premier Stephen McNeil says his government is looking at regulations that could ban flavoured vaping products in the province.

McNeil responded Wednesday after the Opposition Progressive Conservatives introduced legislation aimed at addressing the growing numbers of young people who vape.

The Tory bill calls for a ban on e-liquids, and prohibits the use and possession of tobacco products by people under the age of 19.

However, McNeil says the government is already considering a series of potential regulatory changes that would require licences to sell vaping products, similar to those required to sell tobacco.

He says vaping products are regulated by Health Canada, and he believes the federal agency must also “step up” to tighten rules around things like nicotine content.

The premier added that some provincial legislation may also be needed, but there likely won’t be a bill introduced during the current fall session of the legislature.

“We don’t actually need (legislation) to ban the flavours, but we may need to in terms of making other changes that may be required on how we deal with that product,” McNeil said.

He added the regulatory changes could appear before the session wraps up.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said something has to be done about a product that was originally marketed as a smoking cessation device.

Houston said while vaping products have probably helped some smokers quit the habit, it’s becoming more clear there are potentially harmful health effects.

“My party’s objective is to make sure the discussion is being had,” he said. “If the premier is willing to engage in that discussion, then that’s a good thing.”

In an August interview, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said that online sales were another challenge for the province. He also expressed concerns about teens being able to purchase products from vape stores.

While Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to introduce regulations banning the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19 and banning in-store advertising, Strang said there could be further tightening.

Meanwhile, the Alberta government will consider adding rules for vaping when it reviews the province’s smoking and tobacco legislation next month.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he’s particularly concerned about the growing number of youth who vape, but there’s evidence it can be helpful for adults who are trying to quit smoking conventional cigarettes.

“I respect the rights of adults to choose for themselves, including choices that are unhealthy, but I don’t want my kids or anyone else’s kids to be pressured to start smoking or to start vaping,” he told reporters Wednesday.

He added a quarter of Alberta teens report having vaped in the last month.

Some acute lung illnesses have been reported as a result of vaping in Canada, but to date no cases in Alberta have come up.

The Centres for Disease Control in the United States has said 80% of the 800 recently reported severe lung illnesses from vaping involved people inhaling the cannabis compound THC with their device.

The review of Alberta’s Tobacco Act – which was already set to take place this fall regardless of recent vaping headlines – will be led by legislature member Jeremy Nixon. It is to seek feedback from school districts, municipalities, retailers and health advocates.

Nixon said the review could look at a minimum age for vaping, limiting its use in public places and workplaces, and strengthening restrictions for advertising, especially to youth.

The work is to begin Nov. 1 and be completed by year’s end, with a goal of having any changes brought before the legislature next spring. But Shandro said the government could act sooner if Alberta’s chief medical officer of health recommends any urgent action.

The legislation was last reviewed in 2012.

“This is a new, emerging technology that fell outside the scope of what the legislation said at the time,” Shandro said.

Darryl Tempest, executive director at the Canadian Vaping Association, said the Alberta government is taking a measured approach.

“We at the CVA share the deep concerns of Canadians about the recent cases of lung illnesses, particularly among youth,” he said.

“It’s critical that health authorities get to the primary source of this outbreak, as non-nicotine e-liquid vaping devices sourced on the black market have been implicated in many cases. It is for this reason that we encourage other provincial lawmakers and authorities to follow the example of Alberta.”

David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo, said governments need to act on vaping before there are calls for an all-out ban, which he said would be unproductive and unrealistic.

The key is to target vaping products at adults looking to get off more harmful traditional cigarettes, while cracking down on anything that would entice youth to pick up the habit, he said.

That could include banning advertising anywhere accessible to kids and limiting the zany flavours available for vaping devices popular with youth.

“I actually think it’s a barrier to some adult smokers and to some health professionals considering these products for quitting because they look like kiddie products – peanut butter and jam, chocolate chip cookie dough, cereal milk.”

At the same time, adults need to be better informed, Hammond added.

“In fact, smokers are confused,” he said. “A lot of them think that it’s just as bad or worse than smoking. And so we’ve actually failed both ends of this issue.”



Nova Scotia to ban most single use plastic bags at store checkouts

shutterstock_1250226013e-360x240Nova Scotia plans to join a number of other Canadian provinces in moving to ban most single-use plastic bags at store checkouts.

The province’s majority Liberal government introduced the bill to ban the bags Thursday as the legislature session opened.

After it is proclaimed, the government said, industry will have one year to prepare before the bags are prohibited.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said he’s introducing the bill in the hope of removing millions of bags from the waste stream each year.

“It’s going to change the way Nova Scotians go to grocery stores,” he said after announcing the bill.

He added the bill is a signal the province is willing to consider the banning of other plastic items, such as single-use cutlery and straws.

“This legislation is an important piece that will help us move forward,” the minister said.

Under the proposed law, retailers would still be allowed to use single-use plastic bags for live fish and bulk items. There would also be exemptions for food banks and charities.

There is not a requirement under the act to charge a fee for alternatives to plastic bags, leaving the choice to retailers.

The director of the Ecology Action Centre, the province’s largest environmental advocacy group, welcomed the legislation, noting retailers and other provinces have already begun moving in this direction.

“Atlantic Canadian provinces probably appreciate more the impacts of plastics, particularly in our oceans,” Mark Butler said.

He noted that plastic bags are a relatively small proportion of the waste stream but they have a large impact on wildlife in the province.

“We look forward to the public and the government identifying other single-use items we don’t need to use.”

While many Canadian municipalities have banned single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail outlets, provincewide bans are less common and more recent.

Manitoba’s government has promised consultations on moving toward a ban of single-use plastic bags. A ban in Prince Edward Island went into effect in July, and Newfoundland and Labrador introduced legislation to ban the bags last April.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that the federal government was starting regulatory work to ban harmful single-use plastics.

Retailers including the Sobeys chain have already promised to eliminate single-use bags.

One expert said the banning of plastic bags pleases consumers, but it’s not enough to effect real environmental change.

“Banning plastic bags is just a distraction – the real problem is food packaging. But at least governments are doing something about it,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the agrifood analytics lab at Dalhousie University.

“For Nova Scotia, the announcement is quite timely given the climate strike happening (Friday). My expectation will be to see all provinces make a similar announcement by June of next year.”

Charlebois said for further progress, stores also need to look at biodegradable and compostable solutions, while governments should fund research that will increase the use of green packaging solutions.

Jim Cormier, a spokesman for the Retail Council of Canada, said “overall, retailers are happy with this approach.”

He said having a single system in each province is the best scenario for grocery chains and other retailers, rather than a patchwork of municipal rules.


NSLC to sell cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals before end of the year

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation will sell cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals when the products become legal later this year.

Finance Minister Karen Casey says the government had great success with NSLC when they were asked to take on the retail for cannabis last year.

“They’ve proven they could take on the cannabis and so we asked them what it might look like if they were given the expanded mandate for the edibles, extracts and topicals,” Casey said Monday in an interview.

“They came back with the same kind of parameters and the same kind of priorities that we wanted, and that was that they would do education and awareness with their staff. They want, and we want, the staff handling the products to be comfortable doing that and to be knowledgeable,” she said.

Casey said there have been ongoing discussions with the private sector and First Nations, but for now, the government needed a retailer who was ready and could follow the same retail model set out for cannabis.

She said the new products will be sold in the same 12 NSLC stores that currently sell cannabis.

Casey said the NSLC said it will be able to handle the new products in the existing stores with very little capital costs.

Amended Health Canada regulations governing the sale of edibles, extracts and topicals come into force on Oct. 17.

However a 60-day review process for new products will mean they won’t be ready for sale until at least mid-December.

“As soon as the product is available, we’re going to be ready,” Casey said.