Man's discovery of e-cigarettes sparks business venture


If growth is any indication of success, Walla Walla’s electronic cigarette shop is an ever increasing draw for those interested in an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

It’s only been a little more than three months since the E-Cig Shop opened in the Melrose Street retail complex home to The Modern and numerous other businesses. But owner Cal York has already had to make a jump from his initial 500-square-foot suite to a 1,400-square-foot space at 2200 Melrose St. Hence, newcomers may be momentarily thrown off by the empty space under the E-Cig Store sign. The actual location is in the spot of a former driving school, though York said the signs will soon be changing.

In the meantime, a few details about the operation: After being a tried-and-true smoker for 44 years, York, a retired pipefitter and welder, found an alternative in the electronic cigarette last June. He was so overwhelmed by the success he had in quitting smoking that he was inspired to start up a retail shop dedicated to the devices, which in short are battery operated inhalers that vaporize a liquid solution into a mist to simulate the act of smoking. The liquids can contain varying amounts of nicotine for those wanting to “step down.” There’s no second-hand smoke, lighters or ashtrays.

Though not marketed as smoking cessation devices (the Food & Drug Administration has not signed off on e-cigarettes), the products are billed at the store as an alternative to smoking.

The liquid juices come in an array of flavors created onsite by mixologist Jeremy Powers and sold for $8 each, which is about half the cost of a carton of cigarettes, York pointed out. Current flavors include tobacco, English toffee, butter rum, peach, watermelon, banana cream pie, spearmint and many more. Others in the works include hickory smoked bacon, huckleberry and wintergreen. By summer, York hopes to have as many as 45 available — “We’re going to be like the Baskin Robbins of e-cigarettes,” he quipped.

Costs for startup can begin around $20 to $30 for a single unit, York said. A regular starter kit with two batteries can vary from $55 to $85. The variable is the size of the batteries.

York and his wife Marie are Western Washington transplants. The bigger space will allow room for Marie’s venture, “Mercurial Corner,” which will allow her to offer Pendleton blankets and antique rugs. That side of the business should be up and running this month. To learn more about the shop, call 525-9872.


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