It’s part high-end store and part lounge, but without the liquor.
Pantheon Vape Lab, which opened earlier this month just off the Square, offers not just an expansive inventory of high-end products for electronic cigarette users but also a separate room for customers to hang out with their friends. An e-cig bar offers samples for customers, a mini-fridge stocked with free water and soda, and a flat-screen television with video games, sofa, chairs and magazines including Vogue and Rolling Stone.
It’s the latest Denton-area store to open to meet demand for what has become a growing alternative to tobacco cigarettes.
“We’re trying to create a social environment here that is not necessarily retail driven,” said owner Guy Taylor. “We wanted to create a place where people could come and interact while vaping or not, and feel comfortable knowing they can walk in here without knowing anything.”
The shop is open until midnight Fridays and Saturdays so customers can hang out and have a sense of community, Taylor said. Pantheon is nestled in a storefront at East McKinney and North Austin Streets, where NV Cupcakes recently operated. It’s one of more than a half-dozen stores in Denton to offer e-cigarette supplies.
Vaping surged in popularity last year as a smoking alternative. The electronic cigarette has a cartridge of “juice” made up of a blend of flavorings, propylene glycol (which is FDA approved and used in asthma inhalers) vegetable glycerin and nicotine. Each time a user inhales, a small amount of juice is heated into vapor. Once exhaled, it dissipates within seconds.
Pantheon quietly opened Jan. 1 and held a large grand-opening event Jan. 4. Now, the shop has more than 1,000 followers on Facebook.
“I educated myself in what it is that the vape community wants, needs and expects out of a vape shop,” Taylor said.
Customer Mark McKenney, who works at a different vape shop, has already visited the store four times since the grand opening, to either hang out or ask for help assembling new parts of his e-cigarette. Many of the specialty products in Pantheon are hard to find except for online, where they can be marked up to more than $200 above retail price, McKenney said.
“Coming to the store and being able to see the product, and you can buy it at the retail price like it’s supposed to be, is amazing,” he said. “It’s an unreal concept that we have something this special in the area. You can’t ask for anything better than this, other than being able to live right next to the manufacturers of the e-cigarettes.”
There is also a section of homeopathic anti-smoking products, such as essential oils and candles.
Taylor’s youngest son, Ryan, 20, said the environment is similar to the one his family used to have when they all smoked tobacco cigarettes.
“When everyone would come over to [his parents] house, that was the thing — sit in the garage, smoke and listen to music,” he said.
The family turned to vaping to stop smoking, and then one of Ryan Taylor’s friends suggested the family open a shop. Guy Taylor and his wife own a string of businesses that largely focus on manufacturing and production. This is their first retail venture and the first time the whole family has been involved, he said.
“What I really wanted to create here was something for this community to elevate this industry into something that was legitimate, something that people didn’t think badly of, and at the same time create a legacy for my kids,” he said. “They are thrilled. It’s actually the first thing that I’ve done that they’re interested in participating in.”
With the addition of another vapor store in town, other entrepreneurs say they aren’t threatened by Pantheon or other stores that have opened in recent months, said Tim Parker, owner of the Vapormax businesses in Denton, Lewisville, The Colony and Keller.
“There are several stores that are popping up everywhere,” Parker said. “They haven’t affected our business any since we were one of the first ones in Denton. I think the market is going to stay pretty strong for a while with this.”
As the market continues to grow, Taylor and his business partner, Jin Nguyen, plan to open a sister store in Midland, where Nguyen is based.
They are also preparing for what seems to be inevitable involvement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate and tax e-cigarettes and juices as well as for local regulation efforts. In an Oct. 20 article in the Denton Record-Chronicle, city and police officials said they weren’t aware of any possible city ordinances to regulate the use of e-cigarettes.
“Certainly it will be taxed, certainly it will be regulated, but we’re doing everything that we can to gear up for that and prepare for that, so I think that we’re going to be OK,” Taylor said. “Frankly, I think it’s going to weed out the people who aren’t, and it’s going to further legitimize what we’re doing as a real, regulated business endorsed by the government.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.