Smoking accessory shop wafts into Beach

Make no mistake: The Peace Pipe isn’t what you think it is.

Opening its doors back on July 4, the 550-square-foot store located at Queen Street East and Wineva Avenue is a premier smoking accessory store and novelty shop.

With this sort of store comes a stigma about illicit drug use, one that owner Herb Hatch is determined to dispel. Even a mere mention of drug use in the store can be followed by a refusal to sell store products.

“If you come in and say something illegal, I’ll give you a warning and I’ll sell you a t-shirt,” he said. “But if you keep talking about it, you ask for anything that can be deemed paraphernalia and I won’t sell it to you,” said Hatch.

Hatch said the reason for picking East Toronto as a new location was simple – it was based on need. And that’s the same reason he opened the first location for the store in Oshawa.

“You need to be different. If I’m a specialty shop, I’m not a convenience store,” Hatch said. “Every convenience store has…the cheapest stuff. This is higher-end. Everything in here is premier brands at reasonable prices. I have knowledgeable staff and good service.”

There’s one product in particular they are very proud of – the vaporizer, which is considered a healthy alternative. When tobacco is smoked through a vaporizer, it doesn’t go through the same combustion process, which means no consumption of carcinogens or tar.
“We have the largest vaporizer selection in Ontario and all of them are pretty much high-end,” he said adding that it’s not based on price, since they range from $69 up to $800. “They do a good job of what they say they will do.”

The drug-use stigma associated with these types of stores came to haunt both Hatch and store manager Dan Sullivan four years ago at their Oshawa location when they were both arrested and hit with charges including knowingly selling instruments designed primarily to facilitate the consumption of an illicit drug. A little over a year later, all of the paraphernalia-related charges were dropped. The $60,000 worth of products seized by police were returned.

“I wasn’t worried because I knew we didn’t do anything wrong,” Hatch said, adding that the yearlong partial hiatus from work significantly impacted both him and his family. “You survive and you become stronger for it.”

The two are now even stricter with the language they allow in their stores. Even making reference to an illegal activity in relation to a product they sell can result in an immediate warning, and the refusal to sell.

Hatch, who studied retail management and entrepreneurship at Humber College, said the store has had a couple complaints so far, but just from people uninformed about their products.

“You’re not going to make everybody happy,” he said. “You could open a dump down the road and there would be citizens up in arms, but eventually you’d need a landfill.”

Stigma aside, The Peace Pipe is in keeping with its name.

Originally crafted by Natives, it was meant to bring unity between people, and that’s part of what Hatch says is important regardless of location.

He said the Oshawa store has held art shows and charity events in the past.

“You’re part of the community too,” he said. “We do food drives for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

About this article:

By: Shawn Star
Posted: Jul 19 2010 2:58 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto