Vape shop near me, seems a funny title for this piece of content, but it was the very first marketing phrase we ever used, so it seemed apt. I'm David, the founder of Vape and Juice, and this is our story of how we started the local offline story of what we hope becomes the best online vape store in the UK.
A decade and then some, I was in the US visiting family of my then partner. I was in a crap relationship with her and with cigarettes. Before I began that courtship, I had smoked infrequently but having moved in with her where she smoked indoors; it became habitual. I hated myself with every cigarette and I literally can't imagine now, ever doing it.
The idea of sitting in the kitchen punching a smoke indoors is just ridiculous to me, but it wasn't then and I felt after this trip to the States, I had to end the relationship with both. Oh just to add some colour, we didn't see eye-to-eye very often too.
Back to the vape kit - I walked into a shopping mall in Venice, FL and there was a little retail unit in the walkway that had whisps of 'smoke' rising. Curious, I walked over and half an hour later was $140 lighter. That same kit now, you'd have to pay me money to use but it was like a revelation at the time. Here was something that didn't smell of cigarettes and actually replicated the throat hit. I brought them back to the UK and then.....
That's right, this new starter ecig pen, as quick as it amazed me, just as quickly disappointed. I couldn't find spare parts for love nor money. I'd buy bits from Amazon, Ebay, nothing; all wrong. It dawned on me, here was a great invention that was let down by the fact it was made really with the manufacturer in mind and not the consumer. Why do I say this? Well, you are reliant on buying their parts, not utilising universal bits. I put it in the clutter draw and went back to smoking.
If you want to know more about how vaping works, you should check out the link below:
As I walked into the bar to meet my long term friend Lee, he was sat waiting for me with a couple of cold ones ready at the table. I had landed in LA about 4 hours before, checked into my hotel, stared at the bags in my eyes and realised the only way to tackle jet lag was going to be alcohol.
Lee's a long term friend of mine, I gave him a big hug and he pushed a beer across the rustic wooden tabletop toward me. Then he proceeded to suck on a gigantic metal dildo (well it looked like it) and disperse a smoke grenade from his mouth.
"What the hell is that?" I asked
"It's a vape mate." He said
Having never heard the term 'vape' in related to ecigarettes he began to explain. That piece of plastic junk in my draw from 4 years back flashed across my mind and he delved into how vaping was huge in LA, why his vape kit was better than the early cigalike types and so.
It dawned on me, that he was talking about a consumer-driven product which was very much the antithesis of what I had bought all those years ago. Here was an electronic cigarette that was not reliant on buying refills or cartridges from any one company. The customer ruled and that piqued my interest.
The next day we visited my first vape shop, an ecig store called 'Vape on Brand'. Located in Glendale, LA; it was one of the first e-vape shops of it's type. DJ, games consoles, and a line of people perched up against the counter sampling eliquids like it was a wine or craft beer emporium. It was packed and the product range at the time was insane. This was the moment I knew I had to do this back home.
On the drive back out of Glendale to Hollywood, Snoop Dogg's 'Gin and Juice' was ripping out of the Bose system in the Chrysler 300 sedan I'd hired. I was out of work after finishing up on a construction project with my father and with what little savings I would be able to scrape together after this trip, I knew what my next move would be.
Well, less of a launch per se, and more of a whimper. In actual fact, it was me my house rabbit, wife and chromeback sat in the living room of our one bed ground floor flat, watching Lost. Me being lost.
There I was, thinking my little website was going to be the first vape shop online in the UK. Well no sooner had we set it up live, the actual gravity of the process of how to find customers dawned on me. This wasn't going to be easy, I had 10 minutes later learned I couldn't use Google Adwords or Facebook PPC. For those not in the know, vaping advertising is considered on par with terrorism and gun smuggling in the eyes of web platforms. So, that was out.
I decided to do an online search of electronic cigarette (ecig) stores to remind myself how early to the party I was. Once again I came up flawed. First lesson to any budding entrepreneur there: Do some research first.
That's how the business went for a good few months, an unknown online ecig store. No-one knew who we were and it took about 3 months before we even got our first sale. It was a CE4 starter kit ecig pen. Plus a poorly branded turkish tobacco flavour eliquid. How they found us was probably down to the only thing we could do to be found, you're reading it now: our blog. Vape shop near me, was the first post I wrote, and we got lucky I guess.
The idea of opening a bricks and mortar vape shop was pretty far from my mind when we started the website, but after a morning sat in a cafe in Southend with my late father and Uncle they suggested I should. My uncle ever the opportunist pointed out an empty shop unit across the road, and thought if I offered the landlord a few quid to try it out, he may give me favourable terms.
"Great that sounds easy - how do I find him then?"
"You're looking at him." Said my Uncle.
That empty unit became our first vape shop in Southchurch, Southend. We nicknamed it 'Vapechurch' and it still stands now. It was the first vape shop in Essex and one of the early stores in the UK. If you want to check it out, click the link below for the best vape shop in Essex. (Note: I think all ours are the best)
"Well, I had only about 2 weeks retail experience before in my life. I had worked at Next when I was 16 in a summer holiday role. Hardly the right prep to embark on a retail entrepreneurial exercise, but nothing like jumping in at the deep end.
I bought a bunch of retail counters off ebay and didn't have enough money to properly stock the shop. £5000 had to cover the decorating, the furniture, stock and signage. Not to mention our £40 till from a bootfair. I never properly got that working. (Hand written receipts were the order of the day).
I remember the first day we opened, an elderly couple walked past and asked what we were. I told them, they just looked at me like life had passed them by. The next person to pop their head in was a customer who works with me today, Steve. He had such a ridiculously high tolerance for nicotine and so asked for 32mg. Weirdly enough I had a 32mg in Cola. I also had no measurement of sales, so there's me thinking, right, I need to order more 32mg. To put that in perspective, that is 10 x the strength of our most common nicotine strength sold and it's actually illegal to sell that in the UK or Europe now!
We did a couple of hundred pounds in our first week but the real penny drop was when my brother in law called me up, while I was on holiday to say they had done £500 on a Saturday. I couldn't believe it. I still remember how nervous I was with my first sale and for anyone starting out to open their own shop, it gets easier and you get better. Then even when time passes as others are working in your store, put things in place to ensure that the same level of customer service you gave, can still be experienced. It's vital.
A local journalist followed up on an email I had sent and that one little article I got sent us on our way. With no other competitors at the time, we were completely different. People often ask me, what's the best way to know if a business can succeed. I tell them: "Effect change - don't be a me-too. Ie: do something that people want that other's aren't offering." We were doing that back in 2014 in Essex and it laid the foundations as to why we are still going 5 years later."
As word spread from one vaper to another, that these little electronic cigarettes really could help you quit smoking, we found customers travel up to an hour to our little vape shop in Southchurch. Working in there each day, I couldn't believe how far people had come. But deep down it vindicated why I felt it was a smart move to open a bricks and mortar ecig store.
Dorothy in the Jet Garage doesn't know the first thing about the low end ecigs they have behind the counter and certainly isn't going to be able to explain how t use them, choose them or fix them. (No disrespect meant to Dorothys of this world.) If someone has been to NHS counselling sessions, the GP, medical centres, hypnotherapy appointments and the chemist to try to quit smoking with no success; they are hardly going to hang their hat on the results of a £10 kit from the petrol station.
I felt that there needed to be a clean friendly advice led environment where smokers came to quit. This idea became our mission statement: "We help, you vape." This is why we produce blogs on the Top 20 Eliquids to try before you die:
As the industry grew so did the take-up of electronic cigarettes and not wanting to be left behind, I had already opened my second store, the day after my wedding to wife and the real MD of the company Rachel. We took accessories from our DIY wedding and plonked them in the second Vape and Juice in Southend as shop decorations. Part of these decorations consisted of original whisky barrels acting as pedestals for product display. The shop maintained a fermented alcohol smell until we moved to the High Street, where we are today!
Updated Oct 2019 - We took the time to review Evapo vape shops after they only went and shoved a shop opposite ours. So check out our list of other independent ecig store options besides Evapo in our post below:
Since that second store have opened up ecigarette shops across Essex, London, Kent, Somerset, Suffolk and Newmarket - we have even expanded into same-day vape delivery with our Vaperun brand. Vaperun offers vape kits and ejuice faster than Amazon and with advice online, in Ibiza and across the South East of the UK. A vape shop near me, started to mean a lot more in a lot more locations. So if same day vape shipping is your thing, check out our link below:
Our focus today remains the same as it was when we began the company back at the end of 2013 and that is to provide an ecig store that is advice led and puts happy customers and rewarded staff at the forefront. Our business has created a number of franchises for our best team members, which not only keeps them in the fold it ensures that the right people open new Vape and Juice shops. The philosophy,of, "If it's not good enough for us, it's definitely not good enough for you." is why there are many brands and products we won't stock and other's we absolutely back. We don't want to sell kits that we feel let you down. It's why you won't see a Logic Vape, or a Juul Kit on our website. The non-refillable pod systems that make vaping as expensive as smoking is not a way to encourage people to quit.
We were the first retail chain in the UK to offer a plastics return scheme and we were the first online ecigs store to offer free shipping with no minimum spend. Our webchat is run by humans and not bots; we believe that it's good business to care.
We hope you agree.
Thanks for reading a vape shop near me, my story of the Vape and Juice brand. If you want to visit a local vape shop under our banner, head over to our store's tab on the menu bar, or click one of the links of some of our larger stores below.
We are choosy with the brands we stock and spend a lot of time focusing on producing reviews and breakdowns to make those buying decision that bit easier. Check out our take on Voopoo Drag UK, Smok Vape as well as some Best Eliquid reviews.
There's been a lot of talk about vape dangers, we have spoken about it a lot on your Youtube channel, Vape and Juice TV. Much of this comes down to the misuse of vape kits when it comes to reported lung injuries in the global media. THC oil made of fats that don't dissolve in the body, being inhaled into the lungs. This is a world away from our e-cigarette products, but if enough people believe a story, then it becomes the perception that it's real. It's sad, as every year over a million people die from smoking illnesses, while injuries or deaths from vaping have been minuscule in comparison. Vaping is a harm reduction tool. But if people continue to peddle the myth that vaping is worse than smoking, then it causes problems.
In Europe, we have regulation and slightly more sensible governments who are not being so knee-jerk, and it will lead to other products trying to compete with ecigs. Heat not Burn is one such method, but it is an expensive habit, still smells and produces Carbon Monoxide. The future I believe remains with electronic cigarettes but possibly with a move to nicotine-free vape juice more and more. The real winner for vaping over other quit systems is the replication of the hand to mouth habit. Addiction is habitual, so replacing one habit with another even without nicotine can be a real winning system.
The vape shop industry has seen a lot of saturation, lots of me-too and a lot of discounting on cloned products. This hurts the businesses that play by the rules, treat their staff fairly and pay their taxes. I think in time more and more businesses will move online and we have made steps to improve our online store in the UK and launched a German vape store online too. Vape und Liquid. We are following this up with the extension of ecig sales in Spain through our Spanish store too. Most of the world doesn't speak English, so we are going to find ways to reach them too.
Ultimately though, many of us leave things to the last minute and no one ever bought cigarettes online. The best ecig shops are here to stay and those that focus on experience will be the ones that win. Online won't go away, so if you are in Germany or Spain try our stores for you.
No question really, I love the vape shop Ashford has called Vapeology. The team are lovely, it has all the wonder of an independent store that cares and they stock our Kraken too ;)
Thank you to all our customers and team members of Vape and Juice who have over the years helped us get to where we are now. That's one of the largest retail chains (Still family owned) in the South of the UK. We aren't backed by big tobacco, we don't have any slush funds. We started this business with £5000, a backpack full of starter kits and a set of dodgy shop counters bought off of ebay.
This story, of lost family members, late nights, dealing with break-ins, hand-labelling trial runs of eliquid and arguments with loved ones, is probably one shared by many who have started their own business. But this is our one of Vape and Juice.
We don't always get it right but we are always working to get better and that's the tale of a vape shop near me. I'm an open book and if there is something you think we should do in our online vape shop or offline ecig stores, you can always drop us an email and ask for David or Rachel.