In April 2011, long time smoker Candy Carsella-Kee picked up her first vaporizer and quickly realized that it was going to change her life forever. At the time that Candy was discovering just how helpful vaping could be in kicking such a dangerous habit, she also noticed that there were not many resources for doing so in Northern Minnesota. In order to get the supplies she needed, Candy had to order them from a friend. This process was not ideal, as she had to pay very close attention to when she would need to reorder. The supplies usually took 3-5 days to get to her and if she didn’t reorder well in advance, the risk of turning back to cigarettes would greatly increase.
“Getting what I needed this way was incredibly frustrating and I knew there had to be a better way,” explains Candy.
A year later, Candy’s husband Mike was able to utilize vaping to kick his smoking habit of 35 years as well. Just like Candy, he quickly realized that getting vaping supplies was a huge hassle. Mike and Candy decided to do some research on vape shops in their area.
“We went on a 1500 mile road trip. Our trip took us around Northern Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. We were quite amazed at the limited number of vape shops in those areas and that’s when we realized that we were going to help our fellow community members in Grand Rapids, Minnesota find a healthier alternative to smoking and open a vape shop,” says Candy.
After they returned home from their trip, Mike and Candy quickly worked to set up shop. After filing all the necessary paperwork and securing a storefront in Grand Rapids, they opened the doors of Northland Vaporium LLC on July 8, 2014. From day one Candy, Mike, and their staff, have been able to make the shop a success. Their drive and commitment to helping their community lead healthier lives provides a solid foundation for the business.
“We pride ourselves on educating our customers. We are a very, very relaxed shop. We never pressure sales. We have a tasting bar and we encourage our customers to come in and find an e-liquid they like. If we have customers come in and they can’t find anything they like, we don’t go the next step for hardware. If it’s not going to work for someone, it doesn’t make sense for them to invest the money and we are always very honest with every person that walks through the doors in that sense,” explains Candy.
Even outside of the shop Candy and Mike work on further educating their community on the health benefits vaping offers to smokers. The couple will visit health fairs in the area and talk to people about vaping and how it can be used to lead a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle.
The relaxed atmosphere that Candy works so hard to maintain is what sets them apart from other shops in surrounding areas. The staff of Northland Vaporium will take their time with every customer, educate them on the products and options, as well as be honest about what they will need to vape properly and in a way that is safe. Sales are never pressured and customers are never sold products they won’t need.
“We have customers that drive 200-300 miles to come to our shop. People come from everywhere to visit our shop because of how we treat them. Customer service is the most important factor in our success thus far. How you treat your customers is without a doubt an element of your business that will set you apart from your competition,” says Candy.
Even when the doors are closed for the day, customers can still stay engaged on Facebook. The Grand Rapids, Minnesota shop uses their page to get feedback on products and to get ideas for what new items people may want to see in the shop. Customers can also use the page to stay up to date with vape news, specials, and event dates and times.
As local, state, and federal legislation changes and develops over time, Candy makes sure to stay up to date with industry news so her shop is always meeting and exceeding health and safety standards.
“Keeping up with news and legislation in this industry has been our biggest struggle. Things change quickly in this industry and we make it our job to stay on top of that so our customers can be assured when they come in our doors, they know the experience will be safe. We really pride ourselves on educating our customers properly, so putting in the extra time to stay on top of industry news and regulations is a big part of who we are. This line of work requires diligence and community wide advocacy if we are going to maintain the future of vaping,” mentions Candy.
When she’s not in the shop, Candy is always looking to better her business. Even when traveling, she likes to stop into other stores and check out how they are operating.
“No matter where I am, I always stop into other vape shops. If you’re a shop that is struggling, my biggest encouragement is to work on acquiring employees who have a passion for the industry as a whole and are well educated on what your shop is selling. My biggest pet peeve is when I walk into a vape shop and I feel like all they want to do is sell me a product and get me out of the door. It doesn’t make me want to go back,” says Candy.
Since first opening their doors just a few short years ago, Northland Vaporium has been so successful, they will actually be moving to a larger location this August. The northern Minnesota shop has grown so quickly that they no longer have enough room for products or customers. The new location will include a separate retail space, a lounge, larger tasting bar, and a vending area for customers that may want a beverage during their visit.
It’s clear to see why Candy and the folks behind Northland Vaporium have been able to find and maintain success in just a few short years. Armed with a passion for the industry, a desire to educate their community and the knowledge to do so, the road ahead will most certainly be bright for the Grand Rapids, Minnesota vape shop. SVBS