NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Dave Gerboth finds it strange that his favorite place to socialize these days is at a vape shop. The 43-year-old has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for more than twenty years, but just five months ago he started the process of quitting with a $200 vaporizer that he purchased at a vape shop in Cape Coral, Fla.
“I never imagined such a shop would pop up and that I would hang out there,” Gerboth told MainStreet. “It’s like having coffee or going to happy hour to hang out with friends.”
Gerboth is among the 90% of cigarette smokers trying to quit who are vaping, according to Vaporin Inc. data.
"It’s a movement,” said Scott Frohman, CEO with Vaporin. “Society looks down on smoking cigarettes but vaping is an acceptable alternative.”
The retail vape store segment has grown to a $1 billion market, according to Wells Fargo data, and Frohman is jumping on the bandwagon with Vaporin’s recent purchase of four vape stores in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Fla. enclave.
“We can open these stores for $50,000 to $75,000 and have them cash flow quickly with great margins,” said Frohman, who paid $1 million in cash and $2 million in stock for thevapestoreonline.com chain, which he discovered at a vaporizer trade show this year.
The acquisition of thevapestoreonline.com has yielded Vaporin more than $200,000 since its acquisition on September 1.
“We only need 1300 to 1800 square feet and the buildout is a bar, couch, a few stools, a display case for the vaporizers, a rack to hold the liquids and a computer for the cash register,” Frohman said.
The Miami-based entrepreneur plans to launch or acquire 500 vape stores in 18 months in Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois and New York.
Gerboth started vaping a tobacco flavor fluid that had 24 milligrams of nicotine in it. Today he’s down to three milligrams of nicotine, and his favorite flavor is vanilla berry mint.
“Once I vaped other flavors, it was like having a dessert,” said Gerboth who owns a construction company.
When he buys vape fluid, Gerboth pays $100 for 18 ounces.
“It only lasts three or so months, because I’ve become a bit of a heavy vaper,” he said.
The sale of vaporizers is a faster growing industry than e-cigarettes, having increased $400 million from $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion compared to a drop of $400 million in the e-cigarette market to $1 billion.
“I feel 100% better vaping than I did smoking cigarettes,” said Gerboth. “You don’t get the tar and carcinogens of cigarettes when you vape.”
In addition to selling the Vaporin brand of vaporizers in its new vape shops, Frohman also sells them online and at convenience stores and gas stations in the New York tri-state area, the Northeast, Washington and Oregon.
“The advantage of vape stores is the smell and tasting that happens,” said Frohman. “A storefront gives us the opportunity to sell our vaporizers to customers. You can’t do that online or in a convenience store.”
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet