Jordan Vedoya still needs a couple of credits to graduate from the Asper School of Business, but he can already lay claim to being a business trailblazer -- he's opened the first storefront e-cigarette shop in Winnipeg.
Fat Panda Vape Shop opened on Notre Dame Avenue about a week before Christmas.
The articulate, soft-spoken Vedoya took plenty of time explaining the product to a regular stream of customers coming through his shop one afternoon after Christmas.
'I started using it in September and it changed my life so drastically I wanted to share it with others'
"I'm passionate about the product," Vedoya said. "I started using it in September and it changed my life so drastically I wanted to share it with others."
E-cigarettes have been on the market for about five years but because the products exist in a grey market area when it comes to Health Canada's seal of approval, retailers have to be coy. Vedoya said he is not able to sell it as a smoking cessation device.
"Smoking is popular," he said. "The product speaks for itself. If you are able to switch from smoking to this, then good for you."
Fat Panda sells re-chargeable units that vaporize a food-grade vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol mixture. The mixtures come in a surprising range of flavors from Smooth Canadian Tobacco to Grandma's Apple Pie.
The vaporizers cost between $25 and $120.
Vedoya said he wasn't planning to open until the new year when more of his stock was scheduled to arrive, but when he was testing the signage people started coming in, so he's up and running and doing good business.
"I'm selling out of my supply pretty quickly," he said.
The North American market is already very large with established suppliers and a booming online trade. Vedoya said he knows of others who are about to open shops in Winnipeg.
His store has a bare-bones elegance to it, with low lighting and a collection of easy chairs and bar stools at a wall ledge with a wide-screen television and hot coffee for the customers.
"We wanted to make sure we looked professional. We didn't want to turn it into a head shop," Vedoya said. "We want to make it a comfortable hang-out with a lounge feel to it."
Jessie, a 49-year-old bus driver, was in the shop with his girlfriend. She's a big fan of the product and is happy to have a comfortable spot in Winnipeg to re-stock her supply of juice.
"I smoked for 40 years and tried all sorts of things to stop," she said. "Since I started using e-cigs I have not had a real cigarette for 37 days."