By Erin Hedrick
Photos by Cyrus Malekzadeh
The vaping community is ever-growing, and this exponential growth is due, in large part, to the welcoming nature of many of the community’s people. The industry was not always as booming as it is now, and vapers found comfort in one another; that is, as the saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Despite the fact that the vaping community has come a long, long way from where it once was, the people within it want to maintain that close-to-home, familiar feeling. The vape life isn’t just about turning a quick profit; it’s also—and more importantly, many would argue—about creating a safety net of sorts for people looking to find an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. This is something that Cyrus Malekzadeh, too, sought to kindle.
Malekzadeh’s’ story begins like many others: he smoked for years and happened upon a cigalike model in a convenience store. Where his story differs though is in the fact that he was (and still is, when work permits) an avid bicyclist—like spandex-wearing, the whole nine yards bicyclist.
“And that was with a team, and I just couldn’t breathe anymore. And I was the only guy who’d stop for smoke breaks,” he said.
As time progressed he moved on to an eGo pen by the company he now works for, Apollo, and the rest, as they say, was history.
“I absolutely believed in it. It was something I could get behind,” Malekzadeh said. “So, I stuck with it.”
Malekzadeh later applied for a position with Apollo, as vaping is a cause that he wanted to help further.
“It was something I was so comfortable with I wanted to scream it to the world. I believed in it so much.” So, he got his resume together and sent in to Apollo. “I was that guy,” he said, “I would talk to anyone that would listen to me. I was so fascinated by the technology; I was impressed by it.”
A man of action, it was huge for Malekzadeh to see how vaping, and the technology behind it, worked.
“I keep calling it an industry,” Malekzadeh said. “But it’s really not. It’s more of a community. You’ll never see Coca-Cola helping out Pepsi the way vapers and vape shops help one another out. Sure, we have our own competitive nature, but we also want to make sure that this industry survives so we help each other, and it’s wonderful.”
Malekzadeh owns a vape lounge, Apollo Lounge, in Livermore, Calif., where he hosts meet-ups every other Friday. These events bring anywhere from 30 to 100 people every time they meet. These meets are put on with the help of another shop, Vapor One, which is located in Walnut Creek, Calif. The two locations take turns hosting events nearly every Friday for people in the bay area of California, and between the two B&Ms they encompass the entire bay area effectively, as one is located on one side, and the other on the other.
“We do cloud and trick comps,” Malekzadeh said. “And we eat pizza or whatever. These meets are realistically
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a group of people just hanging out.”
Sometimes the competitions are sponsored by other shops or companies, and the winners can win some awesome mods. Although he only charges a few bucks to enter the competition, Malekzadeh takes all of the money earned through these meets and gives it to Not Blowing Smoke (notblowingsmoke.org). Both shops also host raffles during these events, the proceeds of which also goes to Not Blowing Smoke.
“I’ve never been a big cloud guy; I’ve always been a big flavor chaser,” Malekzadeh said. “I can see the fun. I don’t see the harm in clouds as long as it’s at a vape event. I understand it brings a stigma that vapers are always trying to go for big, obnoxious clouds. As long as it’s a proper event, I don’t have a problem with it. Don’t be a jerk. Use common sense. I think the competitions are fun for the people that want to participate, and I want to support people who want to have fun while quitting smoking.”
While it’s important to have fun, Malekzadeh also encourages advocacy at his meets.
“We try to stay active in our community and active in advocacy. We have to be our own voice. We have to write letters, we have to go to the capitol. While Not Blowing Smoke may be a face of the industry, we all have to show that we are not blowing smoke.”
For more information, follow @apollo.lounge.