In 2009, Jamel Dingle stumbled upon the vapor industry when he was looking for a way to leave cigarettes behind. Although, it was not easy to find vape supplies locally, Jamel stuck with it and found most of his products online. A few years later while on a business trip to Orlando, Jamel dropped his vape and cracked the glass on the tank when he was getting off an airplane.
“I was worried about not having it while on my trip, so when I got to my hotel room I looked for a nearby vapor shop and discovered that there were nine shops in Orlando alone. This was very different from Virginia, where the closest shops to me were 50-150 miles away. After visiting a few of the Orlando shops and speaking to the shop owners, they really inspired me to open up a shop of my own back home,” explains Jamel.
Once back home in Woodbridge, Virginia, Jamel drew up some plans and officially opened the doors to Potomac Vapor in 2014. His goal was to create a store atmosphere that was comfortable and relaxed so that customers felt at ease when they browsed the shop.
“The shop is all love. We want our customers to feel like they are at home and that we are a shop that can be trusted,” he continues.
The home-like atmosphere is a key factor in what sets Potomac Vapor apart from the competition. When customers come in and are treated like family, they know immediately that they can trust the shop staff and the products. Establishing trust with customers can take any business from good to great. It’s easy in today’s day and age to get caught up in a routine, but Jamel and the staff of the Woodbridge shop know that taking the time to establish a personal connection and engage honestly with customers is what keeps them coming back time and time again.
“We were the first to open a shop in this area, so our customer base runs pretty deep just because of that. Additionally however, we offer really competitive prices. We don’t mark up our products to extremes. At the end of the day, I know I am not going to be a millionaire from owning a vape shop. The goal was never for me to get rich, it was for me to get quality vapor products to Woodbridge – for myself and my customers,” says Jamel.
The fair prices and comfortable atmosphere make most Potomac customers repeat customers. Competing with the low prices the internet can offer isn’t always easy, and that’s why it is important for shop owners to spend time making sure customers leave impressed with the service. Jamel and the staff of Potomac Vapor take customer service very seriously.
“When customers come in we make sure they never feel pressured to buy. Our goal is to help them find what would work best for them, not sell them something they don’t need. We always try to go above and beyond for our customers. This is my first time ever owning a business, so I am not an expert at everything – but I do know what excellent customer service looks like. Excellent customer service can be as simple as learning your customers name, delivering a product, or even placing a custom order. Establishing trust is vital to success,” continues Jamel.
Every interaction with a customer is a chance to grow your reputation, and Potomac Vapor is the perfect example of this. The backbone of the shop is all about putting the customer first and this core value has directly lead to the shop’s success.
When it comes to marketing strategies, the shop relies heavily on word of mouth and grassroots campaigns. At the beginning, Jamel regrets that he may have spent more than was probably needed to get his name out there. You learn a lot in the first few months when you own your own business, and Jamel soon realized just treating customers with respect was the only investment he truly needed to build a strong reputation. Print and radio advertisements did not have near the impact that excellent customer service and a few social media pages did. When word got out about Potomac, it was like a domino effect as more and more people began to stop in.
“We have the best prices, a great atmosphere, and amazing customer service – we let that speak for itself. We also offer a rewards program and specials throughout the year to give customers additional savings. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to make your shop stand out, you need to spend time with your customers – that’s where it counts,” says Jamel.
As times change in the industry, and shops find themselves struggling, Jamel recommends just staying the course and working hard.
“There have been times where I felt like giving up, but I knew I just needed to work harder and stay the course. Treat people like human beings. My relationships with suppliers have been a big part in why I made it through everything that happened with the industry in 2016. Building strong relationships with suppliers and industry professionals is just as important as building relationships with customers,” he continues.
Jamel did a lot of research before opening his shop and he continues to do research even today. Staying up to date with trends in this fast paced industry is a challenge in itself, but putting in the time and effort to stay ahead of the curve is well worth it. What was popular in 2013 when Jamel opened the doors to Potomac Vapor is old news now, and his ability to recognize that and be flexible with the products he offers is a key factor in his success. Jamel treats each day as an opportunity to improve his business and that is something that customers notice and appreciate.
Jamel’s sincerity and dedication to his customers has helped set Potomac Vapor apart from his competition. By putting customers first he has created a reputation in his community as an honest shop that offers quality products at fair prices. To learn more about Potomac Vapor visit potomacvapor.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram. SVBS