Right about the time Chris Blake was graduating from college, he noticed there was a demand for glass shops in his area. He had just obtained a business degree and was looking to put that degree to good use.
“I had always had a passion for glass and had been a collector growing up. When I was in college I got my first case of glass from a Colorado artist. That ignited something within me. I never really wanted to work an office job or work for someone else so when I realized that there was a demand for glass shops near me, I contacted my close friend Seth DiPietrantonio, who was also trying to set up a glass shop in the area, and we jumped at the opportunity. Additionally, my friend Ryan Smoke Rings had a successful shop in Seabrook NH, and he was a huge resource for Seth and me when we were first getting started,” recalls Chris.
In 2006, shortly after Chris and Seth officially decided to be business partners, Blazin Ace was born. At the time, Chris and Seth were enjoyed playing Texas Holdem’, and that inspired Seth to come up with the name and concept for the logo. It was the first shop in Portland, Maine to exclusively carry glass. Other shops in the area had small display cases of glass, but nothing like Blazin Ace’s wall to wall displays of original glass work.
“When we first opened, our location was in a part of town that was off the beaten path – it wasn’t the nicest area, but we were on a limited budget and rent was affordable. Glass shops were banned when I was a kid and we didn’t completely know how the city was going to react to us having a huge glass store. Upon opening, we didn’t have any problems with the city – opening and operations went smoothly and to this day we still have a really great relationship with the city and local police department,” he adds.
After two successful years, Blazin Ace decided to make a move and found a new home in the heart of Portland’s Old Port at 432 Fore Street – a prime retail location. The new location featured tons of lighting, nice hardwood floors, and made customers feel relaxed and at ease when they entered the shop. Just recently however, the shop has undergone some major updates and renovations to their space to modernize it and elevate the overall style.
“About a year ago we did a pretty big facelift to our space. Once we updated the floors to some really nice hardwood, we realized we wanted to find ways to incorporate more of the wood look and texture in other places. We were inspired by the recycled wood trend and found a local company, TImberchic, that could help us transform some of our walls. Timberchic uses recycled wood from the Penobscot River to create a peel and stick product that is easy to install and looks great. It’s thin which allows for very little waste and a lot of surface coverage – we love the way it turned out. We also repainted everything to white, bought new display cases, and did some lighting improvements as well to freshen the space,” explains Chris.
One of the many reasons that Blazin Ace stands out from the competition – and has been voted Best Headshop three times by the local newspaper the Portland Pheonix – is the top-notch team that runs the day to day operations. Lead by Chris and Seth, the knowledgeable team puts customers’ needs first and are passionate about their work and the industry as a whole.
“Our team is unlike any other and our customer service is unmatched. They are very well educated in our industry. We have two full time employees, Pat and Jake, and they are absolute experts when it comes to glass and vape. When people come in, they are blown away by their knowledge of the products and the industry in general. The way our team treats people and handles each customer interaction is how we made a name for ourselves,” says Chris.
The selection of glass offered in the Portland shop is unmatched in the area. Primarily stocked with glass work from local artists, the shop inventory is truly unique and always changing. Blazin Ace only carries American made glass and forms lasting relationships with all the artists they feature in the shop. Maine has a a huge glass blowing community and Blazin Ace is in the right spot.
Chris and Seth love to support local businesses and carry local glass first. It helps them maintain fair prices all while helping the artists in their community. With over 70% of the glass in the shop coming from nearby artists, the shop has become a staple in the community. The displayed glass is always changing and offers an on-trend peek into the east coast glass blowing industry. Each year as tons of tourists visit Maine and its shops like Blazin Ace that offer the unique, local items visitors are interested in.
“People are really taken back when they realize how much of our glass comes from local artists. It’s a big part of who we are and a reputation we are proud to have,” explains Chris.
This industry comes with lots of ups and downs, but perseverance is one of the main reasons Blazin Ace has been so successful for over 10 years.
“I am so glad we stuck with it all these years and trusted the vision we had and trusted the industry. Our local glass artists and the industry inspired us so much and they continue to do so. It’s an honor to serve our loyal customers each day and that’s really what keeps us going,” stresses Chris.
Moving forward Chris and Seth are excited to make some updates to their newly launched website. By adding more products and keeping the site up to date, they hope to take their brand to the next level and sell their glass on a national scale – giving their local artists the recognition they deserve. Driven by passionate owners, local artists, and a knowledgeable team it’s no surprise that Blazin Ace has found success over the past decade and they will surely continue to do so in the years to come. SVBS