Located in the city of Chicago, Saint Lucia’s Smoke Shop was created by two longtime smokers who were not satisfied with the options offered in their city. Out of college, Jasmine Rayman-Kinney, co-owner of Saint Lucia’s, took a job at a vape shop where she quickly found herself in a management role. After spending some time managing the vape shop, she decided to switch gears a bit and took a job at a smoke shop.
“The owner wasn’t really involved in the day-to-day operations,yet the shop was still doing really well. As the manager and leader of the shop, I got tired of working so hard for someone who was never there and seemed like they didn’t care,” recalls Jasmine.
After spending six years working in the smoke and vapor industry, Jasmine felt more than capable of opening her own shop. Since graduating, she hadn’t found any jobs that would be a great fit for her in the field of her degree, so starting her own business quickly became the perfect choice. She was determined to open a shop where the passion was palpable, and customers could receive top notch customer service from a team that was truly knowledgeable in all aspects of the industry.
“My boyfriend, Mike, and I pooled together all the money we could get our hands on, and opened Saint Lucia’s Smoke Shop in 2014,” says Jasmine.
Since first opening their doors, the Saint Lucia’s team has been working hard to meet each and every customer expectation. The full-service Chicago smoke shop specializes in mid- to high end American glass, but also carries a full range of cigars, pipe tobacco, hookahs, shisha, cigarettes, and rolling tobacco. Customers continue to come to Saint Lucia’s whether they are sticking to a budget or looking to splurge.
“Mike and I opened the shop because we felt like most of the shops here were not geared towards us. Many shops at the time stocked only import products, had tons of flashing LEDs in the windows, and had extremely high prices on their products , forcing customers to haggle for a good deal – so going to the shop was a hassle. The other option was the beautiful high-end glass galleries in the city, but you would have to be prepared to spend a lot of money. Mike and I wanted our shop to fall somewhere in between the extremes and we wanted to open a shop that was high end but still had that local neighborhood feel,” explains Jasmine.
At Saint Lucia’s the team actually uses the products that they sell, and they truly want to make customers happy. The atmosphere of the shop is a boutique vibe that makes anyone who walks through the door feel at ease.
“We have a smaller store front in comparison to other shops in the area and we keep a limited inventory. We try to only stock products that we would use ourselves. There are obviously a ton of flashy, high-margin options out there, but we work really hard to be a shop that people respect and carry quality products at fair prices,” she continues.
When customers come into Saint Lucia’s, they know that they can ask for the staff’s opinion and get an honest response – not one based on profit margin. The shop understands that shopping today is different, and we live in the age of the internet giving us infinite options, convenience, and low prices. Saint Lucia’s bases prices off online standards and doesn’t gouge customers to make money. Nobody wants to fight for a good deal. At Saint Lucia’s, you won’t have to. The prices are more than reasonable, and they will price match as well.
“We focus on quality, while still offering a full range of products for any budget or level of experience. We also really want to cater towards making women of all ages feel comfortable when they enter the shop. There is a major bro culture when it comes to smoking, and we try to avoid that stereotype here in the shop. Our preferred customer base is the over 35 crowd and we work hard to make them feel as comfortable and confident in our shop as the 21-year-old walking through the door,” mentions Jasmine.
Something as simple as making your customers feel at ease might seem like a no brainer, but in this industry basic customer service is sometimes forgotten as shops place a heavier focus on the bottom line and not on the people they serve. At Saint Lucia’s, that is not the case. Each and every customer that walks through the doors of the shop will be treated with the upmost respect. Providing excellent customer service is one of the biggest factors in the shop’s success and is what keeps customers coming back time after time. Customers come in because they are looking for something, but they stay for the experience and return because of the service.
“Ever since I was a child, I have always loved glass and been infatuated with glass blowing. For me, it has been a lifelong fascination and although I was not blessed with any artistic talents, but I am a huge appreciator of art,” says Jasmine. “It makes me so happy that I get to surround myself with beautiful glass while I sustain my life – it’s rewarding and wonderful to work in this industry. I feel blessed to have found where I fit.” she continues.
Jasmine and Mike’s passion for their customers, and the industry as a whole, has been a major factor in their success. Their love for what they do spills over in all aspects of their business and is the reason customers continue to choose them time and time again.
“At the end of the day you have to make sure you are listening to what your customers are telling you. Don’t be afraid to make changes as your customers evolve. Take old product off the shelves to make room for what is new and needed. Be flexible and engage your customers,” Jasmine suggests.
Looking forward to the future, Jasmine and Mike are thrilled about the fact that Illinois has a newly elected Governor who is pushing to make recreational marijuana legal for the 21+ age group. Although they know the process of legalizing will take some time, Jasmine is excited to see how it will affect the industry.
“We are excited for what that will look like for us as a shop. With legalization, customers can spend a little bit more money to get something they are proud of and can show off to their friends – as opposed to a ten-dollar pipe they have to hide in a box. I am excited to see where the normalization of marijuana will take the industry and how it will bring industries together. It should be a fun change when it happens,” she explains excitedly.
Although opening a smoke shop was not always what Jasmine and Mike planned for their lives, the success of Saint Lucia’s has proved that they are both where they were meant to be. The passion the pair has for the industry shines though with every person they serve and every choice they make. For that reason they will surely be around for years to come. SVBS