Located in Los Angeles, California, V for Vape has succeeded in building one of the best vape shops in the city. Owned and managed by Suraj Amancharla, the LA location has been serving the area since 2014.
“I discovered the vapor industry in early 2014 – I was working as an engineer at the time and a good friend of mine had started vaping in order to quit smoking. I kept seeing him with these unique devices that created such huge vapor and he told me he hadn’t touched a cigarette in 6 months. What struck me was how happy he was, and it got me thinking about the industry as a whole. It seemed as though the vapor market was truly engineered to help individuals quit smoking the best way possible. The efficiency of the system – devices which continue to evolve, flavor selections that continue to optimize, and a loyalty from customers that show appreciation when they find something that helps them succeed with their cigarette problem. To me, this was a very clear emerging market with amazing opportunities,” explains Suraj.
Suraj decided to explore the Southern California market and quickly realized just how many vape shops were in that area. Los Angeles is one of the most saturated areas for that type of business so he wasn’t going to open a store unless he found a great location. After searching for a great storefront, Suraj finally found one in the Los Feliz neighborhood located in East Hollywood.
Prior to getting into the industry, Suraj had no experience, but that did not stopping him from going after what he wanted.
“My engineering background helped me with the initial learning curve of the vapor industry but I had never even seen a vapor device until 2014. I took a calculated risk when I opened, and it was the best decision I ever made,” he recalls.
The first year for Suraj was brutal. He was the newest vape shop in Los Angeles and had no idea how to hit big numbers in his area. He quickly found that the key to success was persistence and confidence in the process he had implemented with his inventory and dealing with customers. Slowly but surely he gained a consistent customer base and watched nearby stores close while his numbers kept increasing.
“We put customer service above all. We care about our customers and ensure every single person is happy when they leave. We also stay up to date on industry trends – only stocking top quality eliquid and reliable hardware that has a track record in the industry. We also have free parking – never underestimate a customer’s happiness with free parking in the city of Los Angeles,” says Suraj.
Caring about the customer’s happiness more than optimizing profit margins is one of the main reasons V for Vape has been so successful in such a saturated market. Suraj and his team know that every transaction is an opportunity to create a positive relationship with someone. They also know that relationships are the key to the long-term success of the business.
“Word of mouth from customers has really been the best factor for the increase in sales,” mentions Suraj.
If you find your shop struggling, Suraj suggests redirecting your focus to keeping your store inventory lean and mean with only the best items.
“Find suppliers and distributors who are reliable so you don’t have to wait when sales are high and restocking is important. Taste everything and make sure it’s up to par with what your store is selling. Don’t be afraid to dump inventory that doesn’t move and replace it quickly with something else. Take the hit, and show the customer something new. Customer service is straightforward, relay happiness,” he says.
Additionally, customers choose V for Vape time and time again because of the juice they carry: The Legend by The Studio Brand. According to Suraj, the line is incredible. It offers a flavor profile of vanilla, graham cracker, and caramel with just a hint of tobacco. It’s definitely been the number one choice for the newcomers into the store since it’s a bit heavier on the PG blend. Smokers crave that rougher throat hit initially and it resonates very well with everyone who has tried it.
“We also created a CBD eliquid that we feel is the best in the world called VCBD. It uses pure CO2 subcritical oil (full plant extract) vs CBD crystal distillate or isolate. It doesn’t have any PEG or harsh solvents like 99% of the CBD eliquid products you see being advertised. It’s very relaxing and soothing, and is non-psychoactive. Customers use it for sleep therapy, anxiety relief, and pain management,” he adds.
Successful business are backed by passionate owners who surround themselves with great people and that is exactly what Suraj has done.
“I have two great employees (Brent Riggs & Charles Trejo) that have been with me for a while. I hired them because they have great taste and both are incredibly knowledgeable with the latest hardware. I think that is the key to a good vape shop employee – they have to have impeccable taste and be able to relay flavor profiles accurately to customers looking for certain things. Being a vapor mechanic is also very important, since customers will have devices that break down or need replacement. Every vape shop should have a solution to those problems,” explains Suraj.
The defining factors for this vape shop have been optimizing inventory and maintaining a positive attitude with everyone they meet. Both eliquid and hardware must undergo constant competition with new product lines that come out. If something better comes along, Suraj never hesitates in upgrading and switching out product lines – he wants his customers to have the best.
“Looking forward to the future, I am most excited about the new hardware trends and tank systems that don’t leak (one of the last remaining hiccups in an otherwise stable trend of top filling devices). New health studies should show the benefits of vaping. The FDA either wants to kill us or help us depending on which lobbyist you talk to, we will find out soon enough. I hope that the taxes that are being hurled towards the industry don’t destroy it. Vaping is the best way to quit smoking, that’s a sacred thing when you think about it,” says Suraj.
V for Vape has a website (www.vforvape.com) as well as yelp, Instagram (@vforvape), and Facebook accounts which are updated with pictures and messages to followers. They are also a member of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and The Los Feliz Business Improvement District. Their goal is to keep the local area welcoming and accessible to locals as well as the heavy amount of tourists that visit the greater Los Angeles area.
“The vapor industry is definitely one of the most dynamic industries I have ever seen. Trends change so quickly and even though sales strategy in the social media and online area can be quite challenging, it is still a great way to keep up. Vapor enthusiasts and customers definitely love a good picture or cloud trick that can be showcased. Translating that to someone walking into your store and buying is another story. The online market is even more brutal than the storefront game,” says Suraj.
After a tough start, Suraj and the passionate team members of V for Vape proved that anything is possible if you want it bad enough – even in one of the toughest markets in the US. By treating their customers right, studying industry trends, and providing the right products at the best quality, V for Vape has been able to find success. They have been so successful in fact that a second location is currently in the making. SVBS