Sometimes all it takes to spark a great business idea is simply a perfectly timed piece of mail. In 1993, Greg Casey, Octopus Garden General Manager, met William Locklear, Octopus Garden Owner, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina at a pool hall after William received a flyer for water pipes in the mail. The pair decided to order a box and Greg began to sell the water pipes out of the back of his car at a nearby restaurant. After working for a little bit and saving up some money, William and Greg opened the first Octopus Garden in Asheville, North Carolina later that year.
In 1993, the smoke shop industry was just getting started, but that didn’t intimidate Greg and William. The Asheville duo was not only confident that opening the Octopus Garden was right for them, but they also recognized a need for the shop in their area and knew it would be received well.
“This industry is evolving and changing all the time. Products come and go pretty quickly, and it’s an industry that never seems in to get dull,” mentions Greg.
Greg and William’s ability to adapt the Octopus Garden to the industry throughout the years is one of the many reasons they have been so successful. While it is one thing to take notice and follow a trend, it takes a different kind of leadership to research, stay ahead of major trends, and adapt a business accordingly in this ever-changing industry. The proactive leadership put forth by the owner and general manager team is the reason that the Octopus Garden has been successful enough to expand to 7 locations in the Asheville area.
“We work really hard to keep on top of new products,” explains Greg. “We go to a lot of trade shows and spend a significant amount of time looking into what is trending or beginning to trend,” he continues.
Like any great business, the Octopus Garden puts customers first. They recognize that first and foremost their doors are kept open by the community they serve and treating them with respect is a top priority.
“Customer service is a major part of our success. We keep our staff well educated and strive for a friendly, welcoming environment. There are just too many shops nowadays that don’t even acknowledge you when you walk through the doors and we really work hard to avoid that. We are here to help our customers with anything and everything they need,” explains Greg.
In addition to offering great customer service, the Asheville smoke shop also offers a free rewards program where customers can receive access to member-only discounts on products, and take advantage of special opportunities to gain points and gift certificates. The shop also offers military and student discounts at all locations as well.
With each of the seven Octopus Garden locations, customers can expect the same experience. The organized smoke shop offers a free spirited vibe, and carries incense, tapestries, and candles in addition to a great selection of smoke and vapor products. Each location offers a large selection of on trend smoke products, and like the Octopus Garden slogan says – if they don’t have it, you don’t need it.
Not everything in the shop’s history has been easy. After being around for over two decades, the North Carolina smoke shop was bound to hit a few bumps in the road. The Octopus Garden quickly bounced back a few years ago from a raid that was part of a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs, called “Project Synergy,” that resulted in charges against retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers in 35 states. Today the Asheville shop is in the process of rebuilding their Instagram account after it was shut down for violating the social media platform’s tobacco guidelines. Life in the smoke shop industry isn’t always easy, but Greg, William, and the staff of the Octopus Garden always find a way to persevere.
“As long as you work hard to stay on top of product trends, strive to maintain excellent customer service standards, and listen to your customers, you’ll set yourself up to succeed. I try to spend at least a couple days a week on the sales floor myself, just so I can hear firsthand what people are asking and looking for when they come in,” explains Greg.
The Asheville shop goes above and beyond the industry standards when it comes to taking care of customers. Not only does the Octopus Garden provide a great service to their community, they also do their part to help keep it clean beyond their doors and volunteer their time to help it stay that way. The people behind the shop, just finished a city clean up with a local company called GreenWorks, an urban environmental conservation organization that works to enhance their community through educational and volunteer based environmental programs.
When customers visit any of the Octopus Garden locations they can expect the same level of knowledge, experience, and great customer service from the staff. All new employees go through a detailed training and shadowing program to make sure that they meet the store standards for customer service and product knowledge.
“When customers come in, we offer friendly and knowledgeable service without being pushy. Most of our staff has been here 10 years or longer and some of our staff members have been here for 18 years. We have a very low turnover as far as staff goes,” says Greg.
Dedicated and well-informed staff set the Octopus Garden up to have some of the best service in the area and definitely help the store rise above local competition. The people behind the Octopus Garden give the industry a good name by operating a clean, organized, fun, and on trend business that will surely continue to be successful in the decades to come.
To learn more about the Octopus Garden, visit www.octopusgardensmokeshops.com or check out their Facebook page. SVBS.