By Nick Bessette and Alyssa Stahr
Photos by Alyssa Stahr and Mike Schramel
Is bigger always better? That depends on who you ask. The biggest vaping exhibition in the United States, and arguably in the world, was held in mid- August on the Fairplex grounds in Pomona, Calif. Held a little earlier in the year from 2014’s event and in a different location, the Electronic Cigarette Convention, commonly known as ECC, was so large that it spanned multiple buildings on the Fairplex grounds.
Day one seemed to bring on nerves, uncertainty and excitement as vendors began the first B2B day of the show. While there was only a vendor list and no floor map on the printed show directory, there was an ECC app that one could upload with more information about how to find vendors in the five sponsored buildings:
Cosmic Fog Hall (Hall 4), Lost Art Hall (Hall 6), Vapor DNA Hall (Hall 7), 3D Vapor Hall (Hall 9) and VPX Hola Hall (Hall 10). Those outside were feeling the heat on day one, but the afternoon started to get a little more lively for those trying to beat the heat. Music started and people seemed to be a little more upbeat despite the high temperatures.
Building 4 was the largest, and housed the premier sponsor Cosmic Vape. Rob Crossley of Cosmic Vape said that being the premier sponsor of ECC was an incredible opportunity. “It’s an amazing fast-forward from two years ago, when I was here as a consumer.” It took 30 to 40 subcontract employees to put Cosmic Vape’s huge display together.
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Day two had much happier vibes, as the B2B session of the show continued. Vendors, like Intrinsic Vapor, mused on why ECC is the must-attend show of the year. “Southern California is the hotbed of the vape industry around the world,” Jodi Santino of Intrinsic Vapor said.
ECC also was the show with the biggest, baddest booths. Onur Oz, sales/marketing manager with Penguin eJuice, said that the company cares about brand image and reputation.
“We understand in America sex sells, but we try to keep it professional. We care a lot about things like Facebook and Twitter, and we have have a focus on the U.K. market, as well as America,” he said.
Glas had possibly the most unique “booth” at the show, complete with a concierge experience at its entrance. The Glas hostess welcomed each visitor, and the indoor room was dark and enclosed, and exhibited a cocktail lounge feel with drapery and seating areas.
New product launches was a theme throughout ECC, as Avail Vapor debuted QR code certificates on its bottles, and Cloudbreak Vapors also debuted its line. Craving Vapor brought out a limited-edition ECC HexOhm mod with five colors, exclusive only to patrons on days three and four of the event. Additionally, Elixir Vape brought out three new e-liquids housing 3 mg of nicotine: Awake, Breathe and Enhance.
By the end of day two, there was an excitement in the air—an anticipation of the B2C days to come. Several ECC fans came on days three and four, and they weren’t disappointed. However, many outside vendors were less than impressed.
“We love that we’re here at ECC, but we think that everyone that purchased spots here should’ve had indoor accommodations,” Austin Rodriguez of Good Ohm Boys said. “It’s over 105 degrees right now, and our bottles are leaking, and we’ve lost product and potential customer base because we’re outside. When we ask people, ‘Do you want to try our juice?’ it’s too hot.”
Daniel Montano (I Vape Clouds) Santa Fe, N.M.
“I’ve been to Vape Summit, Houston and Vegas. I came here and this blew my mind; I absolutely enjoyed the show. I’m a shop owner, and the only thing I can see about this show is that it’s going to help me build my business. It’s amazing seeing how this industry has grown so much, and this right here just shows you the depth of this industry and how much it means to everybody that’s here.”
Mike Martinez (attendee)
“We’ve only hit one building so far; I’m probably going to buy some juice.”
Steve Phelps (attendee) Huntington Beach, Calif.
“I bought a Kennedy atomizer. Good show so far.”
Ryan Klumper (attendee)
“We’ve only been here for about an hour or so. I’m trying to get [Jason] Mewes’ autograph.” (Mewes was on hand to promote his Mewes Juice line.)
David (attendee) East Los Angeles, Calif. came to ECC on both B2C days.
“Just came to check it out. Love this community and just wanted to come for this dope-ass vibe that’s here. I bought a couple juices, checked out a few companies I haven’t heard of, hit some of the spots I have heard of and tried the juice lines I haven’t gotten to try yet.” When asked what his favorite part of the show was, he said: “The vibe that I get off of everyone. Everyone’s so friendly here. I’ve been to so many shops where the employees are pretty much rude and even the owners don’t even pay attention to you. Here, it’s like I can literally go up to anyone of these people and start a conversation. It’s great; I hope we can all work so that we can keep having these events by staying active with CASAA and Not Blowing Smoke—focus on the goal here and keep vaping around.”
Nathan Mushrush (attendee)
“Last year was absolutely phenomenal; this year absolutely tops it. Fantastic people, fantastic juice, Space Jam outdid themselves again, all the other booths have outdone themselves again. Just a fantastic experience. The new bill they’re trying to pass, it’s not going to pass, no one here is gonna let it. I picked up a couple bottles from Space Jam; we went down to Villain Vapors, picked up some Villain Vapors.
Cuttwood’s back, which I’m glad. Blue Label wasn’t giving much, but they’re still holding strong, and a lot of the underdogs are here again, like Drip Society—gotta give a shout out to them. You’re getting, like, hundreds of dollars of juice for like $15; you can’t get juice this cheap.”
When asked if he’d been to any of the outside booths, Mushrush said, “Thank God for air conditioning. We’ve been to a few when we first walked in; I felt sorry for them, no air conditioning; they’re being strong. They got their fans, drinking a lot of water. More drinking fountains are inside compared to last year at the Ontario Convention Center.”
Joey Ford (attendee) has been vaping for four years.
“ECC is great this year; I feel like they’ve been holding back this year compared to last year, but it’s still been a great event. I still got a lot of juice from people. Met some new vendors out there.”
Luis (E-Generation, an outdoor vendor) Los Angeles, Calif.
“It was good; exhibiting was a little slow, not many buyers came through. The weather wasn’t so helpful; we got some mist fans going, they assisted a little bit, so we were able to pull the crowd with the models and some of the giveaways that we had. Hopefully coming up [it’ll be] a bigger venue indoors.”
When asked if he thinks they would’ve been better indoors, Luis said yes, 100 percent. Traffic would be about five times more. “What was it, 107 out today? Both days have definitely been over 100. We had a fire behind the mountains, too, so that definitely affected it a little bit. A lot of people were upset, so they wrapped up before the show even started. Our neighbors in front of us wrapped up this morning and they left. We’re looking forward to future shows. We gotta do what we gotta do, and we plan on being a vendor at ECC again given different circumstances.”
Joey Jux (2modgod on Instagram, attendee) Wilmington, Dela.
“It was a great event, great people, so much support. I’m from the East Coast, but California made it feel like home for me. Every vendor, every person who came out to support, everybody was awesome. The venue was not what I expected; there was a lot of politics with [I guess the] fire marshall and space, and I guess they had people out here in the 130 degree heat, but I don’t think that was their fault. I don’t know, it was a great event in my eyes; I’d hate to be some of these people out here. I’d give the event as a whole compared to all the other events an 8.5 out of 10. I’m a brand builder, I’m with
the company Continuous Current; I’m also with 9South, the juice company. I came out here representing my company, that’s Dripped Up Vaped Out; we’re a company off the East Coast. We do apparel, we collaborate with some of the biggest companies in the game right now and basically expand their identities. I just travel and try to help build the community as a whole, give the people who are outside the community something that they don’t usually see. I do hip hop music, and they don’t really see our culture, and when I bring these mods to shows and blow clouds they’re like, ‘Wow, I can really quit smoking cigarettes with those things?’ So what I’m here for is to try and build the community as a whole and make it the most positive community as possible. We all have one common goal for the vape industry to be successful!”
Cory Gunz (pixielite on Instagram) Wilmington, Dela.
“I think the event as a whole was great! Any event that brings us together as a community kind of lets the community outside our ‘vape world’ know the possibilities of stopping smoking and the ability to fight big tobacco and change the way people think is pretty incredible.
The positivity here is amazing; I’m really impressed by it. I’m with Continuous Current; they’re from Carlsbad, Calif., that’s who I’m out here representing, and my own company, DUVO (Dripped Up Vaped Out), so we’re out here just supporting the community. The best part of the event is always the community. I could rattle off thousands of companies that I love and support, because the people are absolutely incredible people and they do this because they believe in what they’re doing, and you can’t help but to get behind that and support that.”
When asked what one thing he would change for the next ECC, he said, “Don’t put a convention outside in the summer in the desert in 103 degrees!”
Angel and Bree (attendees) Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
“I love it; man the people, the vendors, the environment; man, there’s such good energy around here. We were one of the first ones in, so, two days in a row. We love the giveaways, the music and the positive vibes.”
Stefan Didak (NotBlowingSmoke.org) Oakley, Calif.
“It’s been pretty good for us; people have been complaining on our behalf for no apparent reason, saying, ‘You guys should be in the front instead of being in the back,’ but we’ve had an enormous amount of people come through. They’re all positive, they’ve all been asking questions … it’s been pretty good!”
Didak said that the best part of ECC is meeting all the people that he knows online but hasn’t had a chance to meet yet. “One of the things that NotBlowingSmoke does is get information out to stores, get people involved, get more vapers excited about the things we’re doing, and there’s always additional opportunities to reach out. What we really want is more people to support this, because the more businesses that support us, the more vapers we can reach. Our main mission is changing the public narrative back to the understanding that this is a tobacco harm-reduction product. That’s what this is about; these things should not be demonized, and the users should not be demonized. You have to strategize with the advocacy organizations what exactly needs to be done, at what specific time, and come up with a very good schedule for that. Get them to agree to come out, because there’s been a few dropped balls at many different events. I know that several different advocacy organizations are very much disappointed and discouraged from doing more events, and I think that you need them there. You always need them there, so you have to keep encouraging them in the right way.”
Editor’s Note: We reached out to Steve Mac, co-founder and coowner of ECC, for comment, with no response as of press time. For more information, visit http://ecc-expo.com/.