It’s More Than A Business, It’s A Community
It’s 10 a.m. and Tastefull Vapes just opened. Five customers immediately pile in, most of them known by name, or referred to as “Buddy”, by co-owner Brad Adams.
Not only is this the original vapor store in Columbus, GA, but Brad blazed a way, personally, to bring it here in 2012.
Adams was travelling around selling products for trade shows when he discovered vaping as an incredible alternative to smoking on the sales floor. He didn’t have to leave his customers, he could simply stay inside enjoying his vape pen, while he made money.
Vaping was invented in the 1960s by a Chinese pharmacist who lost his father to cancer because of smoking. The original device is called a Ruyan, which loosely translated means ‘like smoke’, and slowly vaporized its way into the U.S. in the mid-2000s, and finally here (Columbus, GA) in 2012.
Adams came back to Columbus, GA with a passion to bring vaping to his hometown. He went to the streets, literally, and infiltrated the car scene first.
Brad loves using his personal testimony to encourage people who are smoking to use vaping as an alternative.
He proclaims, “It’s cheaper, it can actually smell good instead of being repulsive, plus when I smoked I was coughing up a lung just by walking up a flight of stairs. Now that is not the case, because I vape.”
Being made fun of at first for vaping, Adams eventually converted a multitude of smokers and started selling so much out of the trunk of his car that he gained a partner, Gary Tibbits. Instead of spending $250 for car parts, Brad invested in electronic set ups; and Gary was making various flavored liquid, which was very difficult to obtain at the time.
Originally, Adams couldn’t imagine selling the vaping kits for more than a couple of months, but on March 8th, 2013 him and his partner opened up a small, 250 square foot shop called Tastefull Vapes.
The size of the store didn’t stop anyone, they would have a line out the door with only one case of product.
The first month Tastefull Vapes was opened, they did more than a year of sales from Brad’s trunk.
Adams uses his past sales experience every day and negotiates, sometimes for hours, to get the lowest price possible for his customers. What use to sell for $60-90, is now $30-40. Top retailers and brands in the country partner with Tastefull Vapes because of a strong rapport with Adams. Additionally, there are liquids they sell that you can’t buy anywhere else because they are mixed right here in Columbus, GA, and some of the mods are custom built.
Ironically, as I talk to Brad, who is a natural salesman, he explains how he tries to talk people out of vaping if they are thinking about getting into it for the first time, and only advocates for people to vape who are already smoking.
Vaping does involve nicotine but there is no tobacco. It has its own form of smoke (vapor) but there are no known adverse effects on the heart and arteries. It emits vapor but second-hand exposure to the vapor does not pose a public health risk in the same way as tobacco.
If you are a smoker, trying to quit, the e-liquid comes packed in different nicotine strengths. Categorized in milligrams: ultra-light (6mg), medium (12mg), regular (18mg), and strong (24mg). There is a 0 milligram option too, which contains no nicotine for those who want to taste the vape minus the nicotine hit.
There was not a lot of lawful regulation when Tastefull Vapes first opened. However, being perpetually concerned about the health of their customers, Adams put 18+ on the door to protect their young customers from potential health risks. Now, the law has caught up to their standards and legally you must be 18+ to enter vaping stores and to vape.
One health concern I brought up, that Brad was able to explain, is what if the pen explodes in your face?
Adams reassured me, “It is most likely user error and the user has reset the pen to too high of a level. Tastefull Vapes does not even sell pens past a certain level, like a Lipo, to insure safety to our customers. Everybody wants to push the threshold of what’s safe, but it’s not worth it to us.”
Adams puts his personal cell phone on the business card, he will come to the store and help anytime he is available. For a while he stayed until 1 a.m., until he had to be firm with the time so he could rest. However, they are open 7 days a week.
With a strong customer based business model, it is no surprise they relocated to a bigger store in November 2013 at the Corner of Whittlesey and Whitesville Road, next to Jumpin’ Java.
The vibe is friendly, the couches are comfortable and the pool table is always fun. It’s not just a business, it’s a community and a sub-culture.
Word got out about vaping, and the quickly expanding business opportunity in the area, attracting about 32 shops at one time! Only about 13 vapor shops now remain, but there is only one O.G.: Tastefull Vapes.