If you are familiar with Scranton, Pennsylvania, you’re likely a fan of The Office, where it was the home to a branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Maybe you’re a Biden supporter and recognize it as the President’s childhood home. Cannabis enthusiasts know “Electric City” best as the location of Coal City Smoke Co., a premium smoke shop and glass gallery, founded in 2017 by former wholesale rep Jay Dougherty.
“When I first got into the wholesale side of the industry, a good number of my customers were convenience store owners or completely new to the culture and didn’t have the slightest clue of anything about smoke shops or smoking. That pushed me to open a smoke shop if only for or the education to end consumers,” Dougherty says.
Medical marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania in 2016. While many cannabis related retailers have stuck to specific niches, such as vapes, smoke accessories and now CBD, Coal City carries over 900 different products under one roof — actually two, as second store recently opened in nearby Exeter.
Dougherty also wanted to draw the line between tobacco shops and actual pipe shops, so one of the few things you won’t find at Coal City are cigarettes or tobacco wraps. The former art gallery is open and welcoming with a modern twist. Dougherty says the location in downtown Scranton where the neighbors are a federal courthouse and a probation office helped to take away any lasting stigma from days past.
“I have a lot of friends who are lawyers and policemen,” Dougherty says. “I understood that people were watching every step I made — the displays in the front windows, how I conducted business and even the wording used to describe our products and their intended usage.
“A big reason why we’ve been successful in this location is that we never take anything too far,” he adds. “This is a very conservative area and selling a CBD joint to someone just so they can go across the street and smoke it on the courthouse square isn’t in my mind frame.”
When Dougherty was in wholesale, he represented more than 3,000 products and was confident he could tell crap from quality. He intentionally stocks only the best brands to give customers the best experience possible.
Coal City introduced area smokers to King Palm Wraps, and was one of the first in the area to bring in Ooze wax vapes, like the Fusion Atomizer and Slim Twist Pro. To meet the recent demand for Delta8 they offer Cake disposables, Green Union flower and cartridges, and Halo cartridges and gummies. For fans of soft glass, there’s a special display of functional pieces courtesy of Twisted Sisters Glassworks, a female-owned glass company in Upstate New York, about two hours away.
“I always joke that people walk in and see a vape shop, and when they look farther back into our glass gallery, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know you had all this stuff.’ Everything just ties in together,” Dougherty says.
Price isn’t a mystery or a deterrent to Coal City customers. Water pipes, for example, each are accompanied by a clearly visible, standup price tag. Most glass, even scientific glass with elaborate percolators, can be had for less than $150.
“We sort of caught Northeastern Pennsylvania up to speed with the rest of the country,” Dougherty says.
“With a new industry that no one around here really knows much about, I like seeing the look on someone’s face when they actually understand something that, before coming into the store, they were just clueless about,” Dougherty says. “It’s especially rewarding to point people in the right direction because a lot of them are looking for stuff that’s going to help them mentally and physically. Money really is what drives me, it’s more about helping people in my home town.”