No-smoke smoke shop

A&M Vapes

PHOTO BY Katherine Green

Walking into newly opened A&M Vapes at 1350 Mangrove Ave., it might be difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on. The minimalist décor includes a display case full of small bottles of flavored liquids and some cylindrical devices. Owners Matt Coppens (pictured) and Aaron Andrus were able to shed some light on the devices, which are actually electronic cigarettes called “vape pens.” The liquid is what you “smoke.” A wide variety of flavors are available, as well as different nicotine strengths; the liquid is also available with no nicotine content for your “smoking” pleasure, no addiction required. Electronic cigarettes are quickly growing in popularity, since they provide a convenient nicotine fix without the deadly carcinogens and tar that usually accompany smoking. Your basic vape pen even retains the rough size and functionality of a cigarette. Coppens and Andrus opened their shop mid-February, and are excited about the results so far.

What sorts of things do you sell in your store?

Coppens: We sell electronic cigarettes, so it’s a battery-powered device. Everything we sell is variable voltage and variable wattage, so you can adjust the type of hit you get, how much vapor you get, and how hot it is. These are all refillable. The juice is all American-made liquid; it’s a USP Kosher propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin, and then medical-grade liquid nicotine in different strengths, and the flavors. So it’s all 100 percent food-grade safe; the only bad part is the nicotine.

What makes this a preferable alternative to cigarettes?

Coppens: This is a water vapor. There’s no [actual] smoke—nothing’s being lit or combusted. I quit smoking cigarettes about three years ago, off of an electronic cigarette. It’s a nicotine delivery system, and as long as you get the right level of nicotine and you get it fast enough, you’re not thinking about cigarettes. And then your taste buds adjust and cigarettes taste gross, they smell bad. You can get your smell back, you can get your lung power back, you can run—it’s great.

How do people decide what products are best for them?

Coppens: We have a tasting bar; it’s all zero nicotine, and anybody who comes in can sit down here and try whatever flavors they’d like. Then they decide from that point, based on how many cigarettes they smoke, and what kind of nicotine they need. Juice comes in 0-, 6-, 12-, 18- and 24-milligram increments, from 0-2.4 percent nicotine in the liquid. People work their way down. Our primary customer is someone who’s getting off of traditional tobacco cigarettes

How do you decide what flavors to make?

Coppens: I’ve been vaping for a couple years, and I just went off of stuff that I know is popular in the industry, stuff that I personally use, or any of my friends use. Customer demand is what is driving the flavors on the shelf. We’re trying to come out with at least a new flavor every week, and we try to give new testers to see if they’re appealing.

Has business been good so far?

Andrus: So far we have all five-star reviews on Yelp, all five-star reviews on Facebook, and we have over 31 customer reviews. When people do come in who haven’t been using nicotine, I’m always like, “Are you sure you wanna do this? You might not want to get yourself addicted to nicotine for no reason.” There’s enough of a demand of people who want to get off of tobacco and nicotine in general, so this is a good fit. It’s a healthier alternative.