By Alyssa Stahr
Chris Lumsden’s current life is a product of several labors of love: a love of vaping, a love of his wife and a love of the new city that he now calls home, San Antonio, Texas.
As of the time of this interview, Lumsden was 934 days cigarette-free and sober for more than three years. He was given his first vape by a friend, and when he was drinking he was a pack-a-day smoker. Through sobriety he found himself to be a two-pack-a-day smoker. When he received his first vape from a friend that he kept bumming cigarettes off of, vaping in Virginia Beach didn’t exist. There were no stores, and liquid was made in “secret labs” in houses.
Once he received his first vaporizer, he accidentally sat on it within the first four days. He smoked one more pack of cigarettes, but after that he hasn’t touched one since then. Lumsden met his future wife in Virginia, and at the time she was smoking three packs of Newports a day.
“I thought she was cute, so I gave her, her first vaporizer. We ended up dating, and we were wanting to open up a shop in Virginia Beach,” Lumsden said. “All of a sudden Pioneer Vapes became the first vape shop in Virginia. It was really disheartening because I had been on the ground floor selling vaporizers out of my vehicle.”
Being a very social person and active in the bar scene even though he was sober, Lumsden was recruited by the guy who gave him his first vaporizer to start selling vapes.
“I had a little Craftsman Rubbermaid-type tool chest. They wanted me to be on the ground floor with them. I saw the potential, and I knew immediately it had helped me. For me to kick a two-pack-a-day habit with this time little thing … my wife hasn’t touched a cigarette since then. I saw a potential for profitability and the fact that it’s helping people,” he said.
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So, Lumsden would be in a bar, completely sober, and someone would walk in and ask about vaping indoors. Then they would go outside, he would sell hem or her a setup, and they would walk back into the bar together.
The next thing you know they’d be puffing next to me,” he said. “The chance to get to help people and to get people to kick their cigarette habit, I thrive off that kind of stuff. It was something that I knew I wanted to do. It turned into a passion really quickly.”
Then, the story got deeper. When Lumsden’s wife (then girlfriend) was 3 years old, her father illegally took her to Arkansas. She had no idea who her mother’s side of the family was. Through dumb luck 19 years later, she was working one night and got a message on Facebook from someone asking her what her mother’s name and birth date was. She told her, “This is going to sound really weird, but I’m your mother, and I’ve been looking for you for 19 years.”
“Obviously there was this huge, ‘Oh my God’ moment. This happened right before I met her. Apparently she has a huge family,” Lumsden said.
The pair started dating, and the Texas family wanted to meet him. The weekend turned into a vaping bonding session, with Lumsden’s soon-to-be father-in-law handing him a ProVari within the first few minutes of meeting him.
“With her coming to town it was a huge family deal. Apparently the whole family vapes. I played vape doctor all weekend,” Lumsden said.
The family went to local vape shops, and according to Lumsden, the ones they visited included very inexperienced owners. Lumsden explained products to his soon-to-be family with skill and expertise.
“We would get home from the vape shop, and more family members would come in to get set up. We probably went to 12 different vape shops over the weekend,” he said.
The couple flew back to Virginia, and they woke up the next morning to a text message from her mother asking if they would consider moving to Texas and opening a vape shop.
“My wife read it to me, and I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ She doesn’t have any family in Virginia, and I have a very small family, so I would move to Texas in a heartbeat for this opportunity,” he said.
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Two days later, he bought a trailer and they loaded it up with important items in the front. As they got closer to the back, some less important items didn’t make it. Lumsden and his stepson took off on the half cross-country adventure and started looking for commercial real estate. It took him about four months to find the space that he wanted, and he was going for a unique, higher-end look. He had the idea of a prohibition-themed shop before the got to Texas, and he found a location that was actually two businesses in one, prompting having to tear a wall down.
“One of the sides was a cigar tobacco lounge where people came in and smoked actual tobacco. They were on a month-to-month lease with 900-square-feet, and I signed a five-year with 1,800 square-feet.”
When Lumsden was in Virginia he knew that he wanted to move to San Antonio. He started joining Texas vape Facebook groups, scouting and seeing what was going on with local shops. He came across a post from Timmy Quinn, who is now Exclusive Vapes’ manager. Lumsden sent him a message, and before he even left Virginia he said that Quinn was helping him with information about San Antonio. Lumsden said that throughout the entire process, Quinn was integral of getting everything up and running.
“I was going for the full-blown lounge/vape shop. We have people that are customers who come in that are like, ‘I’m going to go sit on the couch,’ and I’m like, ‘Absolutely, turn the TV off or here’s the remote,'” Lumsden Said. “I wanted the atmosphere here to be laid back. We consider our customers family. There are no high-pressure sales. It’s about educating the customer and saying, ‘what are you trying to accomplish?”
Exclusive Vapes opened its doors Dec. 12, 2014, and now the shop has five employees at the first location and three at Valor Vapory, a second location that opened about three months ago in which Lumsden is a silent partner.
“It is right outside of Lackland Air Force Base. My business partner there is former Army; my employee is former Marines. We have 48-inch decals with all of the branches on the walls-it definitely is a shout out to the armed forces and brave men and women who choose to serve us,” he said.
Back at Exclusive Vapes, Lumsden said that he only carries products that he believes in, through testing and purchasing products for the shop that he has personally used.
“If the newer so and so is coming out, the newer so and so will be out three weeks later, and I want to see what happens first,” he said. “I thoroughly stand behind the Kanger subtank series and the Kanger boxes that have come out. Siglei has been very good-I have not had a single box we’ve sold come back with a warranty issue.”
Lumsden also stands being most of the Aspire product, the Atlantis’ and the Tritons. The shop does carry higher-end stuff like Limitless Mods and Manhattan v2s, rotating in high-end items once every one or two weeks. However, Lumsden admits that higher-end products are not his best sellers. Top sellers currently are variable voltage box mods where people can drip and tank and switch the wattage and get the perfect vape for them.
Exclusive Vapes also carries three e-liquid lines, including 18th Amendment, themed after the prohibition-style shop.
“When we were creating that line, there was multiple reasons for it. One is because vaping as in the government’s eye about trying to ban it, coupled with the fact whit I really feel that we’re a speakeasy. The shop has dark woods and subdued lighting; we went with all antique-style light bulbs,” Lumsden said.
18th Amendment E-Liquid was supposed to be a house juice line, and Lumsden “pawned off the juice making” on his wife, who is a bartender by trade. The e-liquids she started creating in their lab at the time were better than almost any other e-liquids Lumsden had tried. The first line was capped, so she created an additional line called Philosophy E-Juice. Then an employee went into that juice lab and began making cereal flavors, also better than any cereals that Lumsden had tried. Originally named Saturday Morning Cartoon, it has since been rebranded to SMC E-Liquids because of the “trying to sell to kids” stigma.
“We don’t support that, and we understand. The industry has taken such a staunch stand against it, so we changed the name. We redesigned the labels so they will be a little less colorful, and one of our flavors is called Rainbow Udders, which is one of our top sellers here. We’ve toned it down to make it less rainbow and made the words the primary objective of the label,” Lumsden said.
A SFATA member and members of the Age to Vape program since its inception, Exclusive Vapes was extremely active during the Texas legislative season.
“I am a Virginia Beach boy born and raised. For me to put on shoes, let alone a suit and drive an hour and a half up to the capitol building to speak on behalf of my industry … I went up three or four times during the legislative season, and we held SFATA meetings at my shop,” he said.
Exclusive Vapes also helps the cause with fundraisers.
“We held a huge fundraiser for SFATA and vaping advocacy, and I brought together 15 different shops, and the fundraiser raised about $2500. I proposed to my wife at the fundraising event with about 400 people there. That was definitely cool,” he said.
Now that Lumsden’s family has settled into the San Antonio scene, they now are good friends with the majority of the shops that are in it for vaping. Lumsden stressed that he associates with people who care about other people’s well being.
For more information, http://www.exclusivevapes.com/.