By Sarah Schaffer
Althea’s Imaginarium, a shop on Main Street, is a common place for college students to visit for vaping supplies. With the growth of the vape trend, the business has also grown, becoming a fixture in our small town.
The shop has seen an upswing in the popularity of vape products since the trend took off among KU students.
“College kids are my best customers,” said Chad Schlegel, the owner of Althea’s.
Althea’s Imaginarium has been in business since 2011. The shop offers small trinkets and souvenirs, as well as incense, vape juices and other products.
According to Schlegel, the business has changed and grown since its opening, but mainly in regards to the vape-related items. Those products, he said, are more recent.
In mid-2016, Pennsylvania legislators passed a provision requiring a 40 percent wholesale tax on “smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco and e-cigarettes,” as well as most of the substances required for the e-cigarettes to function, states the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. This has made it difficult for many vape shops to continue purchasing these products for retail.
At least a hundred vape shops were forced to close down in 2017 alone after the tax took effect, according to the Pennsylvania Watchdog website.
Althea’s Imaginarium did not avoid the struggle.
“We were out of it for the past two to two and half years,” said Schlegel in regards to their vape products. However, within the past year or so, they began to sell them again.
Prior to the tax, Schlegel noticed vaping began to skyrocket in popularity around 2014. Then, there was a dip in interest until the past year, when it took off again.
The shop also suffered from arson in 2016, when a former employee set the building on fire. The damage was costly and was a further setback for the business in that time.
There are other issues with running a vape shop. The controversy surrounding underage children using e-cigarettes often comes up in conversations about the subject.
Schlegel said that some shops that sell similar products give the responsible shop owners a bad name. “There’s not as much oversight,” he explained, saying that they I.D. their customers at Althea’s. Other places allow minors to purchase their products, even though it is illegal.
As the vaping trend continues to grow and change, shops like Althea’s Imaginarium will remain impacted.