A new shop offering up e-cigarettes and other tobacco products looks bound for a Lee Highway shopping center.
Thicker Cloudz Vape ‘N Smoke is “coming soon” to a space at 5157 Lee Highway, according to signs posted at the location.
The shop doesn’t appear to have an online presence of any kind just yet, but county permit records show that its owners first applied for permission to open up in the space back in mid-January.
The store, located in the same shopping center as Preston’s Pharmacy and several other small shops, has seen quite a bit of turnover in the past few years.
County records show that it’s been home to everything from an Indian restaurant to a cell phone store dating back to 2015.
Firefighters spent part of Saturday night extinguishing a house fire on the 1300 block of N. Stuart Street in Ballston.
Arlington County firefighters arrived around 8 p.m. to find flames that originated near the back porch and extended to part of the attic. Crews managed to put out the fire in about 20 minutes.
Emergency crews reported that none of the four to five people living in the home were injured, and neither was their dog.
An ACFD spokesperson says an improperly discarded cigarette sparked the fire. It reportedly was thrown into dry leaves and shrubbery, which then ignited the porch.
The store will sell vaporizers and e-liquids, which come in various flavors including traditional tobacco flavors and more exotic flavors like watermelon mojito or peppermint bark. Customers can also create their own flavors at a “juice bar,” said Scott Parker, a managing partner in the business.
The new store is located at 3219 Columbia Pike, across from the Audi dealership. It’s a locally-owned franchise of VaporFi, a Miami-based retail chain and manufacturer.
“We’re very happy to be in South Arlington, with a great location right on Columbia Pike, an area with tons of traffic,” said Parker. “At the same time, we’re also currently shopping locations in North Arlington as well. We hope to open 15 stores in the next 12 months all over Northern Virginia.”
There are three existing VaporFi locations locally, in Alexandria, Georgetown and Potomac Mills, said Parker, who’s also a partner in two notable Arlington businesses: A-Town Bar and Grill and Don Tito.
The new store will be open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In the lower level of the Garden City Shopping Center at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive, Jonathan Elias, Chris Bienlein and their friends can be found amidst a haze of vapor, puffing away on electronic metal tubes.
Elias, 30, owns My Vapez, a store at 5183 Lee Highway that sells vaporizers, a form of e-cigarette. Bienlein is his friend and partner in the fledgling enterprise, but it has become increasingly clear to them that, even though e-cigarettes are a new phenomenon, the market is booming.
Less than a year ago, Elias was a 29-year-old working in information technology when his friend told him about “vaping,” a way to consume nicotine without smoke and without tobacco. The friend had tried the mainstream e-cigarettes like Blu and NJoy but told Elias neither helped him with his smoking habit until he tried a rechargeable vaporizer.
The vaporizer heats up vaporizer juice until it’s a vapor. The liquid has nicotine, two forms of glycol to help the nicotine vaporize, and flavoring.
The idea to open a store didn’t occur to him at first. He asked a now-competitor for more information, and he said they ignored him. So he bought 100 bottles of juice and sold them out of his house last March. Once those sold out, he bought even more.
By June he had a decent business distributing and wholesaling juice out of his house when he bought a space in Herndon to sell retail.
“I never expected it to blow up,” Elias told ARLnow.com in the back room of his Arlington location, which he opened in late October. “At first it was a part-time job. It’s still a learning experience.”
Now Elias operates two stores, is preparing to open another in Rockville, Md., but admits he’s not a huge fan of all the work that has come with the territory. He is, however, enthusiastic about his product. Vaporizers help two-pack-a-day smokers quit entirely, he says, and that’s where about 90 percent of his business comes from.
“I’ve seen guys who haven’t touched a cigarette in months,” he said. “People try other things and they don’t work, so they keep coming back.”
My Vapez carries close to 80 flavors and a handful of different vaporizers, which Elias says are incredibly difficult to keep in stock. One of the vaporizers, which are also called “mods,” sold out before it even arrived in store, thanks to My Vapez’s active Instagram and Facebook following.
“It’s so customizable, they even have Hello Kitty tips,” Bienlein said.
Elias says vaporizer stores like his “are on every corner in California,” but his is the first of its kind in Arlington.
One customer was going to India for a year and bought 30 boxes of juice, Elias said. Another drove all the way from Delaware for a particular mod and flavor. Even though most potential customers are just learning that these products exist, Elias is already proving his doubters wrong. The owner of the grocery store next to My Vapez’s Herndon location was originally one of those doubters, predicting that they would go out of business.
“He told me ‘you’re wasting your time,'” Elias said. “Now his outside wall is lined with e-cigarettes.”
Due to our area being about four inches below normal in rainfall for the year, more small fires have been sparking. Arlington County Fire Department Captain Gregg Karl said the county isn’t experiencing as many brush fires as some neighboring areas, but there have actually been a lot of mulch fires in the past few weeks.
According to Karl, most of the trouble has been with smokers trying to extinguish their cigarettes in plant boxes or areas with mulch. In many cases, the cigarettes smolder on the extremely dry, flammable material and then start a fire. Even drivers throwing cigarettes out of car windows has been causing trouble, because there’s mulch on many of the street medians in Arlington. Smokers are reminded to make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished, and to only use approved receptacles to dispose of them.
Even if we get some rain this weekend, it likely won’t be enough to alleviate the elevated fire danger.
“Unless we were to get a good, long, soaking rain, the fire danger will remain,” Karl said. “We need a persistent rain for a few days to get our levels where they need to be.”
Karl said some residents hear about red flag warnings and have questions about open burn restrictions. However, open burns of items such as yard clippings and debris are never allowed in Arlington, per the county code.
Another thing that goes hand in hand with warm weather is grilling, which can be a hazard as well. Anyone using a charcoal grill is reminded to use extra caution with the coals.