Collegetown smoking enthusiasts will soon have a local venue for buying paraphernalia when Smokers Choice opens at 121 Dryden Road in Collegetown early next week.
Merchandise includes rolled cigarettes, cigars, hookah, sheesha, handblown glass and tobacco accessories, such as hand pipes, water pipes and humidors. The front counter is stocked with Pineapple Express and Twisted Dreamz herbal incenses.
“We sell a lot of things kids really like,” Anna Nozkowski, a store employee said. “We’re back in the 70s, so a lot of stuff is back,” she said, referring to tie dye, bead curtains and neon light posters available for purchase.
The store sells a variety of colorful glasswork. “It’s really beautiful. I don’t care what people use it for — the work that goes into one piece, it’s art,” Nozkowski said.
According to Nozkowski, $1.50 “roll your own” cigarettes are one of the store’s most popular and profitable items, which she attributes to the high cost of generic cigarettes that sell for more than $8 per pack. “Roll your own is where it’s at right now,” she said.
The store is part of a chain of 44 stores located throughout upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania. All of the stores are run and owned by Darren Schwartz and Douglas Nolan of Sullivan County.
“Customers come first,” Nozkowski said. “The boss wanted it to be convenient, in a nice area.”
Smokers Choice opened a store in Syracuse in October and another is scheduled to open in Cortland in two weeks. “We try to hit almost every town,” Nozkowski said. “A lot of kids told us to open up in Ithaca.”
Ithaca is already a destination for smokers throughout the region, as there are eight smoke shops on the Commons.
David Pargh, an employee at 3-D Light, a smoke shop that opened more than 20 years ago on the Commons, said there are positive and negative aspects to the proliferation of smoke shops in Ithaca.
“It hurts less than you think having so many of the same thing next to each other competing,” he said, citing variation in products and prices.
An Excape employee, who goes by Whisper, predicted that the Smokers Choice’s opening in Collegetown would not affect business.
“People scope out other shops and come back to us. People appreciate that we have a lot of independent artists. When people want to find unique [items], they come here,” Whisper said.
Cornell students expressed mixed feelings about Smokers Choice opening on Dryden Road.
“Right now, if students want to buy paraphernalia, they just have to go to the Commons. It’s not that far. [The store] won’t change the culture, just the convenience,” Chris Wang ’14 said.
Ben Wainberg ’14 agreed, saying that he does not think that the store will negatively impact Collegetown.
“I think it fits in well with college students’ lifestyles and the overall Ithaca vibe that is kind of hippy-ish,” Wainberg said. “A lot of my friends will definitely go there.”
While Wainberg did not expect any community disturbances, Jenny Molinda ’12 cited concerns about ventilation. “I live in the building next door … I don’t want that wafting up to my window,” she said.
Other students said that they would prefer to have other types of businesses open in Collegetown.
“I think it’s going to promote an unhealthy behavior that is already too prevalent on campus,” Colleen Taggart ’13 said. “I would like to see more of the open spaces in Collegetown go to businesses that promote a healthy lifestyle.”