Bruce Bussard got into the head shop business in 1983 when he was a junior in high school, selling pipes out of his mother’s bead and silver store in Redding. Today, Bussard, who lives in Anderson, owns a trio of shops in Redding, Red Bluff and Chico called The Darkside. He carries a variety of tobacco and cannabis pipes, as well as vaping supplies, skateboard equipment and other gifts. “We call it ‘Skates and Vapes’ quite often,” Bussard told the CN&R, adding that he’s been called “the Walmart of my industry” because of the pricing and diversity of his merchandise. Bussard’s Chico location, which opened a couple of months ago at 245 Walnut St., is spacious at 3,500 square feet and well-lit. Rows of skateboard decks line the back wall, and Bussard and store Manager Roxy Hoofard were behind the counter during a recent visit.
What can people expect at the store?
Hoofard: Everybody walks in and says we have everything.
Bussard: Yeah. And they like that we’re large and open, because most people go into head shops and they’re kind of small, dark and very crowded. We sell a lot of skateboard stuff. This is a big skate community. We probably sell more skate stuff than we do any other product, followed by vapes and then pipes …. When it comes to our glass, we buy from a lot of local blowers, and we buy pipes from all over the United States.
Have the changing politics of marijuana helped business?
Bussard: No, it’s actually made business tougher. I used to be virtually the only shop for years and years and years. And now even in this town there’s 10 to 15 head shops. A lot of people have gone into this industry, which 20 years ago would have never [been] done … because of the condemnation that went along with head shops.
So, why “Darkside”?
Bussard: A lot of people think it’s connected to Star Wars, and it’s not. When I first started this, I looked at it as, everybody has a dark side. Everybody. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the pope, the little old lady next door—you. Everybody’s got a side to them they don’t want the public to know. This used to be something that—people would come and buy, but they wouldn’t share with the neighbors the fact that they smoked pot. So, it was their dark side.
What’s your dark side, Bruce?
Bussard: What’s my dark side? I don’t know. I’m pretty open, and I don’t care what people know about me. I’ll tell them anything. If you have a question, I’ll answer it. I have no shame. No vanity. I don’t care. So, I don’t know.
Hoofard: I think you’d rather hide from people, but here you are, not hiding from people. So, I mean, there’s that. Kind of a solitary creature.