Typically I would not be heading out covering a vape store, mainly because, like hair salons, they are all over the place these days. There is however, one vape shop concept that is setting itself apart from the others.
180 Smoke opened its doors at 1068 Elmwood a little over a month ago. Operations manager Joel Rudewicz recently returned to Buffalo after moving away almost 20 years ago. Joel, a historian by trade, was living in Toronto when he began working for the 180 Smoke operation. It wasn’t long before the three owners began counting on Joel for many of the operational aspects of the business, which is what excited him the most. One day, the owners approached him and questioned him about his hometown city of Buffalo. The Canadian operation was growing steadily, with 15 stores, manufacturing facilities, etc., and the time had come to to expand in the US. So Joel toured the owners around Buffalo, who, at the time, had a poor impression of the city. They were shocked to find that Buffalo was in the midst of making a comeback, and decided that the city would be the perfect place for their US headquarters.
After signing a deal for the Elmwood Avenue location, Joel got to work designing the shop, which he says follows an Apple-esque design approach. The place is streamlined and modern, with glowing green shelves and lit wall applications. “We wanted to create a space that is welcoming for people,” said Joel. “I feel that vape shops have a bad reputation. We’re here to change people’s perceptions about what an e-cig shop looks like, and how it performs.”
Not only does Joel feel that the Elmwood shop will be the first of many 180 Smoke vape stores in the US, he is also confident that one day Buffalo will be home to a US manufacturing operation, and warehousing for the growing business. After all, 180 Smoke is not only about selling e-cigs, it’s also in the business of making its own liquids (juices). Currently the lab is in Toronto, where the liquids are made, and packaged. The company has been around for about 5 years.
The way that the vaping trend is going, it seems as if it is certainly the wave of the future, despite the continued battles that are being waged between smoking, vaping, and quitting altogether. “When I started working at 180 Smoke in Toronto, I was smoking heavily,” said Joel. “I come from a family of smokers. My grandfather died of lung cancer. After starting vaping, I dramatically cut my cigarette smoking down, and today I don’t smoke cigs at all. I can say the same for my family members. We call it “switching’. I was able to ween myself off of cigarettes. Not only do I not miss the tar in my lungs, I also pay $7 a week now, instead of $70 for cigarettes. We’re here to help people make the switch from cigarettes to e-cigs. We want to get people off combustion. I smoked for 15 years. One of the owners of 180 Smoke is Dr. Gopal Bhatnagar, who is a doctor specializing in cardiac surgery. He travels all over the place speaking on the benefits of vaping over cigarette smoking. The point of 180 Smoke is not to encourage people who aren’t already smoking to start vaping. The point is to get smokers to switch to vaping.”
180 Smoke specializes in education, sales, and repairs. Currently, the Elmwood location is running a special, where if a smoker brings in his or her last pack of cigarettes, they can trade it in for a free Cloud Maker Nano, but they must purchase their own e-liquid. There are 6 different levels of nicotine in the liquid – the lowest number contains zero nicotine. That means that customers can choose to go more for the taste, or more for the nicotine, depending on how much they were smoking previously. Joel feels that 180 Smoke is giving people a change to break their cigarette habits. He’s a believer, because he’s switched from cigarette smoking to vaping, and he feels that the benefits outweigh any of the detriments.
Is the verdict still out about the longterm future of vaping? Yes, there are plenty of skeptics, and there are plenty of believers. If you’re a cigarette smoker, and you’re willing to give vaping a try, then stop in and talk to Joel about switching from smoking to vaping. It could be the exact transition that you’ve been looking for.
180 Smoke Vape Store | 1068 Elmwood | Buffalo NY | 716-887-9888 | www.180smoke.com