One of the newest industries in Middle Tennessee is tied to, perhaps, one of its oldest.
Tobacco use has been declining for years, and e-cigarettes and vaping has had a definite hand in that decline. Its market has gone from virtually nothing a decade ago, to an estimated $3.7 billion in the U.S. last year, according to Forbes.
As such, E-Cigarette and vapor stores have popped up all around the region, and the rest of the country.
Old School Vapor Company, located at 1220 School Street in the old Spring Hill High School building, opened in 2014 and last month expanded its operation.
“We opened in 2014, it was a kind of spontaneous thing that just came together, but it blew up from there,” co-owner Sam Oechslin said.
“The store was growing so much and needed more space so we moved next door to a larger space.”
Oechslin, along with his step-father Kim Procter opened the store. Oeschlin, along with his sole employee, spend most of their time at the store.
They are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday but Sunday, when they close at 5 p.m.
But for Oeschlin, it is more than a business .
“Even when we are off, we hang out there,” he said. “It is more than just a store to me, it is a place to hang out for the community and our customers.”
The relaxed, friendly atmosphere, he feels, is part of its success.
Of course, he also attributes the store’s success to his focus on selection and quality, in the different flavors of the e-liquids, called ‘juice’ by the industry.
“We can promise we have the best selection anywhere in Middle Tennessee,” he said. “That is what people mostly do when they walk in for the first time, the first words out of their mouth is usually, ‘Wow,’ because of our inventory.”
The industry is becoming more regulated, with a 2016 FDA ruling that regulates the sale and manufacture of e-liquids. The rules from that decision are still being figured out by the industry, but so far it has had seemingly little effect on the estimated 10,000 vape stores nationwide.
Part of the rules concerned setting up standards for the manufacture of the ‘juice,’ which is a mix of nicotine, flavorings and plant or synthetic glycerol which are vaporized by being heated in a chamber before they are inhaled. All ingredients are easily available.
“A lot of places carry a ‘house’ juice that might just be mixed up in the back of the store, but we only carry products that are made in clean-room laboratories that meet federal standards,” Oechslin said.