by sue webber
“An electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette), electronic vaping device, personal vaporizer (PV), or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) is an electronic inhaler meant to simulate and substitute for tobacco smoking. It generally utilizes a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution. Some release nicotine, while some merely release flavored vapor.”– Wikipedia
Just when you thought e-cigarettes were the latest smoking innovation, a Brooklyn Park shop adds a new wrinkle.
Andrew Alshouse, president and CEO of the eCig Market that opened in Brooklyn Park Sept. 20, says his is the first e-cigarette retail outlet in the world to offer custom blending of up to three flavors, custom adjustment of the PG/VG ration and adjustment of nicotine levels from zero to 24 mg.
“This system is known as ‘FLAV-KICK-NIC’ and is patent pending,” Alshouse said. “We have invented a machine that accurately dispenses e-juice on the spot. Customers can make the customizations and have their juice ready in less than one minute.”
Alshouse, a Champlin resident who has worked as a software engineer for the last 20 years, claims that “no other shop in the world could do such a thing without the machine and system we have invented.”
His new shop, located across the street from North Hennepin Community College, is an attempt to create a “pleasing, clean environment that’s somewhat sophisticated and pleasant for all ages,” Alshouse said.
“A good number of our customers are ex-smokers, but quite a few have never smoked before,” he said.
Alshouse said he’d always wanted to start his own business.
“My son, Brandon, got the idea for this, and the two of us put our heads together and came up with a whole new way of doing things,” Alshouse said. “I didn’t sleep for five months.”
Though the FDA hasn’t come down with regulations on e-cigarettes yet, Alshouse said he and his son are committed to maintaining the highest quality possible in their products so they’re ready for the time when federal regulations do come in the next year or two.
Brandon, 20, quit smoking, went to e-cigarettes, liked them, and realized the opportunity, said Andrew, an ex-smoker who, along with his wife, also vapes regularly now.
Brandon, who is the owner of the shop, said he used e-cigarettes to quit smoking tobacco.
“I smoked for three years and had massive health effects; I used to not be able to take a deep breath; I felt like I was dying,” Brandon said. “I quit smoking when I was 19. After a few months, I started being able to smell and taste things again. Since then, I’ve been working my way down to nicotine-free e-cigarettes.”
Since he cut down on nicotine, he said, “I’ve started getting energy and changing my life.”
One advantage of e-cigarettes, he said, is that “You can still have the hand to mouth action without nicotine.”
Brandon claims there are no second-hand effects from nicotine-free vaping.
“We’re really trying to get people not to use nicotine; stay away from those stinkies,” he said. “We’re not trying to attract kids.”
He said he tries to discourage people from using e-cigarettes if they aren’t already smokers.
“There’s no point in it,” Brandon said. “We’re all about helping people quit. But some people have no intention of quitting, so they switch to e-cigarettes to become healthier and avoid the carcinogens.”
Brandon notes the huge dollar savings of e-cigarettes over cartons of tobacco cigarettes.
“Most smokers spend $60 a week on a carton of cigarettes,” he said.
The e-cigarette initial set up is a one-time cost as low as $35, and replacement juices amount to about $20 a month, he said.
The shop purchases its huge variety of flavored juices from a “flavor chemist” in California, Brandon said. He spends hours trying a variety of 50 to 60 combinations for taste and appeal. One recent flavor addition is Mint Chocolate Chip. Another, called Eden, combines 12 fruits and a secret ingredient, he said.
“I like to create new tastes,” Brandon said. “Sometimes it takes awhile for people to find the right flavor.”
Brandon, a graduate of Anoka High School, came up with his own business plan and is on duty in the Brooklyn Park shop daily. He said he spends his off-work hours studying and researching to learn about the e-cigarette liquids, how they work, and how they taste.
“I do loads of research at night,” Brandon said. “I’ve never worked this many hours in my life, but I just love it.”
eCigMarket, at 8413 West Broadway in Brooklyn Park, is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Information: www.ecig-market.com, or 763-400-7174.