Halo Retailer Spotlight: Vape Daddy’s of Newton, MA
Stacy Poritzky bought a starter kit for her 20-year-old son and then one for herself. Neither has smoked since. The success of the product and the business that sold it convinced Stacy and her partner David Bershad to start their own vape shop, Vape Daddy‘s. Together they’ve established four thriving locations. To quote Stacy, “I’m the muse, he’s the muscle.”
Halo: How long have you been in business?
Stacy: We opened in December of 2013.
Halo: Where did your store name come from?
David: Stacy and I both come from a marketing background. We named all sorts of products — ice cream flavors for Friendly’s. We had done this for clients. (You) go online and see what domains are available, because you may come up with the greatest name, but I wanted a dot com. We’d spent a few days tossing names around, and I just plugged Vape Daddy‘s in and vapedaddys.com came up. I started shaking, reaching for my MasterCard and bought the domain for a song.
Stacy: I think that the fact that David and I both come from really strong marketing and creative backgrounds is one of our critical success factors, because we really, really understood the importance of marketing the name, of the logo, of presenting a consistent brand image. Nothing makes us happier than having come up with a really good name for the store.
Halo: Do you have more than one Vape Daddy‘s location?
Stacy: We have four, all in a 15-mile radius. The first location isn’t necessarily the largest or the nicest. We set up our pathetic little office in the back room where we’re speaking to you and we get all of the inventory here and we run it from this store.
David: This is our world headquarters in Newton, Mass, home of the Fig Newton. (laughs)
Stacy: It took maybe a month to start getting really busy, and then we were like, this is such a great idea, so six months later we opened another one in Framingham. That one was just amazing, and then we opened up another one in Norwood. And then that did really well, and then about a year ago we opened up our fourth store in Braintree. Had we not started hearing murmurs of FDA deeming regs, we would’ve kept on opening stores.
Halo: Why did you start selling vape products?
Stacy: About three and a half years ago, my oldest son was about 20, and he was living in Florida and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. I went to visit him, and he told me that some of his buddies had been talking about e-cigarettes. I kind of was curious and went to a vape shop and I was just blown away. There was a long line out the door, and I was just amazed at how busy this place was. I bought him a starter kit. This is embarrassing, but I had been chewing nicotine gum for 20 years. I definitely was super-addicted to nicotine, so I bought a kit for myself as well. My son and me sat down and we were using (the e-cig kit) and all his friends came around, and everybody was like, “Oh my God, you mean I could do that instead of smoking?”
I came back and said to David, “We just need to open up a vape store.” He’s like, “What’s a vape store?” and I started telling him about it. He had owned his own advertising agency for 30 years, and I have my MBA, and I actually worked in brand management for Gillette for many, many years. We were both busy doing other stuff but I was like, “It’s such a great idea for people who smoke. We really need to do this.” At the time, our store was only the fifth in Massachusetts.
We feel like we were really helping a lot of people and we were making money and it seemed like we were really well suited, between David and me. David was an ex-cigar smoker. He used to go out in the winter with his coat and his gloves and his chair and sit outside and smoke cigars!
Halo: What do you like best about selling vape products?
David: I would say helping people. Providing people with an alternative to combustion. If you look at what the U.K.’s done, and the Royal College of Physicians, they’re stating, based on their research study, that vaping is “95% less dangerous than smoking.”
We went into this business as business people, but we thought, “You know what? I think we can make a difference here.”
Stacy: It is a business, and if we were not doing well we wouldn’t be doing it. That said, we both feel really fortunate to be in a business where we really are helping people.
Halo: What’s special about your store?
Stacy: When we opened, the other stores in Massachusetts were being run pretty much by guys in their 20s who knew a lot about vaping but who knew nothing about running a business. Whenever we would go into those stores we felt like we were outsiders. We weren’t made to feel comfortable.
Our biggest distinction is our customer service. We want everything to look really clean. We want people to come in and not feel threatened. And we want to make sure that nobody leaves the store without understanding exactly what they’ve purchased and how to use it. We never, ever upsell somebody.
David: We don’t sell anybody anything they don’t need. And we give away pounds of chocolate! (laughs)
Stacy: We do try to remember everybody’s name and what they vape.
Halo: What’s your customers’ favorite Halo flavor?
Stacy: I’m not saying this because I’m talking to you, the Halo flavors are very consistently great-selling flavors, and Tribeca and SubZero are always in our top ten SKUs (stock keeping units).
David: With Tribeca in the top four. It got into the top four and it never left.
Stacy: We’re always looking at our numbers and getting rid of flavors that aren’t performing well, which we’re hard-pressed to do because you’re still disappointing some customers. There aren’t a lot of brands like Halo. People really, really like Halo. It’s very consistent, which we love.
David: Tribeca in particular. People are committed to it. I’m a tobacco guy and I just can’t even define what Tribeca is and that’s how it is with most of the people who like it. They just go, “I don’t know, it’s just, I love it.”
Stacy: SubZero has really jumped up a lot. I’ve been noticing a huge trend toward the menthols.
David: Mystic and Menthol ICE and SubZero.
Stacy: A lot of people don’t want to vape tobacco (flavors).
David: It’s polarizing. It’s like, “I’m trying to quit smoking, why do I want to be reminded of tobacco?”
Halo: What’s the first or most common question customers ask you?
David: “Hey, how ya doin’?” (laughs)
Stacy: It depends whether they’re brand new customers.
David: If they’re return customers they say, “What’s new today?”
Stacy: “Do you guys have cigarettes?” A lot of people ask, “Do you sell rolling papers?” Those are the people that just walk in and walk out.
David: They don’t understand what vaping is.
Stacy: A lot of people who come in have never vaped before. They’re like, “What is vaping?”
Halo: How long have you been vaping?
Stacy: Ever since I went into that store in Florida three and a half years ago.
Halo: What’s your favorite Halo flavor?
Stacy: I’m not a big tobacco fan, but when I do feel like vaping tobacco flavor, I’ll do Tribeca.
David: Every Thanksgiving we go to Stacy’s sister in New York. She lives in Tribeca and I always make sure I bring Tribeca. So I vape Tribeca in Tribeca. (laughs) I’m so lazy that I rarely use an RDA, but right now, in two different tanks, I have Voodoo and Tribeca.
Halo: What does vaping mean to you?
Stacy: It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m definitely addicted to nicotine, and I need to vape. And I feel like, unlike smoking or even chewing nicotine gum, vaping is less in-your-face. I really feel like vaping is so perfect for me and for so many other people who just can’t beat a nicotine addiction.
The original location of Vape Daddy‘s is at 376 Watertown Street in Newton, MA. There are three other locations in Greater Boston — be sure to stop by one of them when you’re in the area!
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