One of my favorite activities is going to Oregon’s capital, Salem, and harassing politicians. They are elected to serve the public, and I pay taxes, so might as well get my money’s worth right? Another reason why I go to Salem is to hit up the finest head shop I have ever seen. ‘Smokey’s Gift Shop’ is located at 285 Liberty Road NE Salem, Oregon 97301 (right downtown), and it is my favorite place in the world. This Sunday I sat down with the owner, Ed Lara aka Smokey:
Q: What do you sell at your gift shop?
A: Anything a stoner would want. We have the best prices on pipes, blunt wraps, papers, bubblers, bongs, hookahs, basically anything and everything. If you don’t see it here, I can order it for sure. We offer a medical cardholder discount, as well as a discount to any of our friends on MySpace.
Q: When did you start blowing glass?
Q: When did you open up your store?
Q: What makes your store different than other ‘head shops?’
A: I do custom work. You can come in here, tell me what kind of style of piece you want (spoon style, Sherlock style, bubbler, pipe, bong, etc.) and I can custom make it for you. I also repair pieces, which no other place does around here. We have one of the largest hookah selections in the Northwest, and we have a lot of exciting stuff coming out all the time. I’m not an artist that crossed over into blowing glass to make money, I love this stuff. I went to hemp festivals when I was 11 years old, so I have been using pieces for a long time. I know what works the best because I design it with a purpose, and I only stock the highest quality items that I use myself.
Q: What do you do to stay on the cutting edge of the head shop industry?
A: I go to national expos to see what new stuff is coming out, or what ideas people have. I also come up with a lot of stuff on my own. I blow glass all day every day, so I have invented stuff that you can only find at Smokey’s; like my paperless blunt for instance.
Q: I noticed you have a large case of ‘Chong Bongs,’ what was it like to be open during ‘Operation Pipe Dreams?’ (see article on Operation Pipe Dreams for details).
A: I have a showcase that has 8 Chong Bongs in it, one of them is autographed. I have a couple more at home too. I placed one order, with plans to order a bunch more. That’s when I started getting faxes from other head shops saying that the feds just left their store, and took EVERYTHING. It was really shitty, because I had only been open a year or two, and I thought I was already being forced out of business. I went to bed every night thinking that the feds were going to kick in my door and take everything that I own. It was like getting kicked in the nuts. I lost a big chunk of change while that was going on because I didn’t want to have anything on my shelves. Luckily though, the feds never came to my store, and I am still open for business.
Q: Have you ever been harassed by law enforcement?
A: No, never. I make sure to follow the law. I can’t guarantee that people leave my store and only do legal stuff with my products, but it is out of my hands at that point. Crack heads would smoke sour skittles if it got them high, but that doesn’t mean the guy that sold them candy at the local market should be harassed by the cops, you know?
Q: What are some products that have your full endorsement?
A: Anything that I make is top quality. Most pieces that are sold at other stores are bought in bulk from other countries, mostly China. They are not made to last, they are made to make the most profit possible. I make solid pieces that I know will last a lifetime if they are handled with care. Also, ‘Fantasia Shisha’ hookah products get my full endorsement. We offer one of the best selections in the Northwest, and that’s not coincidence. They are great products, and we sell a lot of them.
Q: If other head shops want to buy from you wholesale, how do they contact you?
A: You can always come into my store, or call me at 1-503-851-1563, or find me anywhere in the world on MySpace at www.myspace.com/smokeysnovelties.
Q: Do you have any ‘exciting new stuff’ that you are working on, such as marketing or products?
A: We are working on getting comedians Tommy Chong and Doug Benson to come here and sign autographs, but we don’t have a date yet. We have to work with their touring schedule, but I will make it happen. Also, we are starting a ‘build your own piece’ service at Smokey’s. You can come in and choose your style, color, carb size, beads, you can put your name in the design, or anything you want. No other place I have ever heard of offers that. Also, we are starting a customer referral program. Loyal customers will get a number card, and when other customers purchase items using the number card, the loyal customer gets a credit at the store. Like, if you are customer number 420, and your friend buys a $100 bong using your referral number, you get a $5-10 credit in the store. It helps me get more business, and helps other people get free pieces. Everyone wins.
A: What is the best way for readers to keep up on everything dealing with ‘Smokey’s Gift Shop?’
Q: Come into the store or check us out on MySpace!