It doesn’t matter what they’re smoking — tobacco or marijuana. Smokers are smokers. And in the view of Smoker Friendly, they’re all potential customers.
The Boulder-based smoking purveyor is preparing to move aggressively into cannabis accessories after 23 years of primarily serving the tobacco market.
Smoker Friendly plans to open as many as 10 new stores this year under the name Glass Werx, a chain that will sell a variety of pipes, bongs, grinders and vaporizers.
“We’re really kind of equal opportunity,” Smoker Friendly’s chief operating officer Dan Gallagher said. ” Now that cannabis is more mainstream, it’s a concept we’d like to expand on fairly rapidly.”
The first Glass Werx, in Nederland, launched last month. A second store in Pueblo opened this week.
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Smoker Friendly also is exploring the idea of selling marijuana itself — not just accessories — but hasn’t yet made a decision.
Analysts say the legalization this year of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, as well as medical cannabis in 21 states and the District of Columbia, is likely to bring a surge of mainstream business investment into smoking accessories.
Gallagher said Glass Werx will have a different look and feel than ordinary marijuana accessories stores, commonly known as head shops.
“We want to create something that has a good vibe and a nice retail look that appeals to a broader range of customers,” he said, including people who are new to marijuana or trying it again decades later.
Glass Werx stores will feature contemporary industrial designs built with brick, glass and steel interiors.
“It’s more of a mature concept,” Gallagher said. “It’s something where people would not perceive a stigma and say, ‘Hey, this is a head shop.’ “
Smoker Friendly stores for the past four years have carried a limited selection of glass pipes and accessories oriented toward marijuana. Glass Werx outlets will come in two varieties: focused mostly on cannabis accessories, or co-branded with Smoker Friendly to include tobacco products.
Smoker Friendly operates 90 corporate-owned stores in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Another 850 stores in 38 states are operated by licensed retailers.
Smoker Friendly’s parent company also operates the Gasamat chain of gas stations and convenience stores.
The company’s potential interest in selling marijuana is an evolving idea.
“It would be a logical move for us to consider,” Gallagher said. “When you look at our retail footprint, we sell gas and tobacco products, which are highly regulated sectors. We’re comfortable operating in a regulated environment.”
Sales of smoking accessories, particularly electronic cigarettes and hand-held vaporizers, are growing fast nationwide. Convenience-store sales of e-cigarettes and vaporizers rose to about $1.7 billion last year from an estimated $1 billion in 2012, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
“It’s becoming a more popular kind of product for adults,” said Tom Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. “A lot of companies are interested.”
Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, email@example.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp