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E-cigarette store expands into Detroit Lakes

Masterpiece Vapors is located at 119 Lake Ave. in Detroit Lakes. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam

Detroit Lakes now has what is known as a “vape” shop.

Masterpiece Vapors didn’t come out of thin air though; it originated in Perham about a year ago.

Owner Jenny Hoban got such a good response from her e-cigarette customers there that she decided to open up a second location at 119 Lake Avenue in Detroit Lakes.

Hoban, who was living in California before moving closer to family in Perham last year, worked at a vape shop in Oceanside.

She says as the popularity of e-cigarettes and their shops of different flavors and styles became more abundant in California, she knew she wanted to start up her own place.

She also knew Minnesota had a lot of smokers and very little product.

“When I moved here, there were only two or three shops down in the cities,” said Hoban. “By the time I got my ducks in a row and got my shop set up in Perham, 30 to 40 shops had opened up in the cities. They were popping up everywhere.”

According to Hoban, that’s because “the stuff sells itself”.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that mimic a typical cigarette in that a person “smokes” them — the difference is, there is no smoke. A food-grade version of the liquid used in fog machines is infused with various amounts of nicotine and flavorings and placed within the e-cig. When the button in the device is pushed, the coil inside heats up and produces vapor. That vapor is inhaled, providing a clean delivery system for nicotine.

“You’re avoiding all the other chemicals added to the cigarettes to create a chemical dependence beyond the nicotine,” said Hoban. “Nicotine by itself is no more harmful than say like caffeine, but it’s when you couple that with lighting it on fire, the carcinogens, the tar, the burning matter, that it is.”

While e-cigarettes certainly have their skeptics and opponents, Hoban is a believer in what she sells.

“It’s been so cool watching even like little old ladies in their 70’s and 80’s who otherwise would have taken cigarettes to their graves getting off cigarettes and using these products,” said Hoban, who says young people also vape as an alternative to smoking.               

Masterpiece Vapors got its name from an artistic part of Hoban’s soul that sees one’s life as their own ultimate masterpiece.

“What you do with your life is your greatest creative achievement, and so this is about inspiring people to realize that they have the power to make positive changes in their life,” said Hoban.          

One of her three employees, Saria Love, says her transition from a 13-year habit of smoking cigarettes to now “vaping”, was an effortless one helped along by the taste…“Once you try this, it’s hard to go back to smoking because it just tastes gross,” and also by the physical effects she felt.

“I used to wake up every morning feeling like I had an elephant sitting on my chest,” said Love, “and I’d have to sit there for like 10 minutes while the gunk in my chest broke up, but now there’s none of that.”

Masterpiece Vapors sells somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 flavors with the ability to mix any of them.

“From tobaccos, desserts, menthols, fruits, drinks, candies…” said Hoban, who says people can choose their nicotine strength ranging from zero to 36.

With different drip tips (mouth pieces) and styles including pipes, customers can create an e-cigarette that is almost like an accessory just for them.

“You can build one that has big clouds or one that just has a lot of flavor or one that gives you a throat hit…whatever you want out of your vaping experience,” said Hoban.

Another draw, according to Love, is the cost compared to traditional smoking.

“When they jacked the prices up on cigarettes, it was more than my husband and I could handle,” said Love, who was spending roughly $300 for them both to smoke. “This is so much cheaper.”

According to Hoban, a pack-a-day smoker spends $180 to $200 per month, but to maintain that same exact volume of habit in vaping, a customer would spend $30 to $40 dollars per month.

“Our 10ml e-liquid that sells for $8.95 is equivalent to a carton of cigarettes that are up around $70 now,” said Hoban. “So whether you’re in it for health reasons or money reasons, we’ve got you covered either way.”

A starter kit including two basic e-cigarette units, a usb charger, wall adapter and 10ml bottle of e-liquid costs around $40.

E-cigarette business owners like Hoban are strong opponents against Minnesota legislators who recently wanted to ban vaping in public areas, just like smoking. It’s an idea Hoban calls “ridiculous”.

“The people who say they don’t know what’s in it (the e-liquid) are the willfully ignorant politicians trying to pass legislation out of greed,” said Hoban, who believes some are in the palms of big pharmaceutical companies.

“They have their patches, pills, drugs and all the tobacco-related diseases…that’s a lot of money for big pharmo,” said Hoban, who celebrated a win when that piece of legislation was thrown out a couple of weeks ago. But despite a business she believes is a much better alternative to smoking, Hoban wants Masterpiece Vapors to be so much more than just an e-cigarette shop.

She is nearly finished remodeling her two-sectioned space into an earthy/spacy design where people can hang out and socialize while vaping, as well as the beachy-style store front where she’ll sell her merchandise.

Hoban intends to sell art pieces from local artists out of her shop, as well as snow boards and other items like hacky sacks. Masterpiece Vapors is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the possibility of staying open longer later this summer.

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes and Perham, both in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466