The Pipe Joint
The Pipe Joint, in Littleton, Colorado, is a family business. Lisa B. is the owner. She’s helped by Lucy and Meeka — Lucy is a rabbit and Meeka a ferret. There’s also an aviary worth of parakeets.
Lisa might very well have rather opened a pet store instead of a smoke shop. The venture came about as kind of a lark when her husband asked if she’d like to take over the failed business.
“I replied, ‘Hell, no. I don’t know anything about it,” said Lisa, who before reopening the door to The Pipe Joint in 2016, had helped operate her family’s gas station. She knew about business, but her experience with anything cannabis was limited to when she’d smoked in high school.
Luckily, the shop had loyal customers, and they were so happy to have it open again, that they helped educate Lisa about products. She also picked the brains of vendors and binge-watched Youtube videos on the subject.
As you’d expect, The Pipe Joint carries a large variety of pipes, nothing too fancy and all extremely affordably priced.
“My clientele looks for what they can afford,” Lisa says. “I sell a lot of hand pipes, water pipes and dab rigs. There are also people who just want a plain glass bong with an ice catcher.”
If there’s something a customer wants that’s Lisa doesn’t stock, she will gladly order it in. Bronco Distribution, out of Denver, is her go-to, particularly for functional glass pieces.
According to Lisa, disposable vapes make up her best-selling product category. Among the most popular brands are Omega, Bang, Vaporax and Plus Xtra.
“People who are transitioning away from cigarettes like the vapes because they don’t make you stink,” Lisa says.
CBD products, from relaxing bath bombs and soothing lotions to gummies and shatter, are quickly growing in popularity with a wide demographic of customers.
“Everybody and their dog sells CBD, so it’s really tough for people to find quality products elsewhere,” she says. “I offer CBD from Smokey’s, Pure Hemp Botanicals and Be Well Dexter because these are brands that I believe in.”
Among the most unique items at The Pipe Joint are 420-themed stained glass pictures made by a local artist. Lisa hopes her customers will like them –- as soon as she finds time to put them on display, that is. You see, this is truly a one-person show six days a week.
“I had my son working with me, and he was a gem, but he eventually moved on to work on cars which is what he really wanted to do. I’ve tried hiring other people, but most don’t bother showing up for training — it’s been a challenge to find people who are reliable,” Lisa says.
“I take it day by day, minute by minute. Luckily, I live about seven minutes from the shop, and I’ve cut back on hours so I can work in my garden and spend time with my grandchildren,” Lisa adds. “The Pipe Joint isn’t Wal-Mart, so there are times when I’ve only got a couple of customers and I can use that time to restock and do other managerial things.”
Because Lisa is on her own, she has most products safely in showcases or displayed on wall shelves behind the counter. Not only does this spark conversation, it also discourages shoplifters.
“I acknowledge everyone when they come in, and if a group of friends come in together, I ask ‘Who’s buying?’ and tell the others to please wait outside,” Lisa says.
One advantage that Lisa has going for her business is that The Pipe Joint is the one of the only smoke shop in town. It’s also not your stereotypical “dark, gloomy head shop” either — it’s light, friendly and homey right down to the potted plants.
“I’ve checked out some other smoke shops to see how they do things, and quickly decided it was not the way I wanted to run my business,” Lisa says. “I hate when showcases are so packed with pipes that customers can’t find something they like or even see the prices. I keep my inventory well-spaced and labelled with easy to see tags.”
Looking back, Lisa may have been apprehensive about running a smoke shop, but now she’s found her place within an industry and community she enjoys.
“I love all my customers — they call me “Super Mom,’” she says. “Now that I’m here, I can’t see myself doing anything else.”