If you walk into a vape shop in New York or LA, you’re likely to meet someone behind the counter who is willing to take the time, for free, to teach you the ins and outs of your device. You simply have to want to learn. It’s counterintuitive to the usual, efficient style of a salesperson, whose job is to push a product on you. This sensei-deshi culture in vaping arose because the survival of vaping, in the face of Big Tobacco lobbyists worldwide, depends on community.
Saigon doesn’t seem to know it yet, but we already have our own vape guru. Jon, owner and founder of DJ’s Vapes, is a California transplant who has been spreading his knowledge and handmade, high-quality juice line for several years now out of a small shop in District 7.
The e-cigarette industry is expected to be worth $10 billion by 2017. It has its fair share of stuff made for showing off and marked-up cheap products. Still, there’s a breed of vapers with geek-level knowledge, like Jon, who have a different bottom line: it’s about more than just quitting smoking, chasing big clouds and fancy toys. Jon has created an atmosphere at DJ’s Vapes that’s about chilling with friends, trying new flavors or mastering a new coil build and, above all, making sure people know what safe, high-quality vaping really looks like.
How did you get started?
Our first venture into vaping was in California, my brother-in-law wanted to open a shop and needed the money to do that, same name, same vape juice line, except his juice doesn’t sell in Vietnam so I took them all out.
They were American flavors, things Vietnamese people don’t like, like really sweet juices or not sweet juices, nothing in the middle.
How long have you been making juice?
I’ve been making juice in Vietnam for about three years now. I started because other stores was hurting my wallet, I was buying like 8 or 9 million a month in juice and every single time they had like a new product I went in and bought it. You couldn’t get any other vape stuff here like back a few years ago. It was only him or one other guy that was importing shit from Thailand but it was worse than Chinese stuff.
How did DJ’s Vapes come about?
Technically I opened the shop because of my teacher friends. I quit teaching to do this full time because I want to give a quality product to Vietnamese people—something that they don’t have to worry about ingredient-wise, coil-wise, health-wise, battery safety, coil safety and general information about vaping.
Do you feel like you’re bringing the American vape experience to Vietnam?
Nah, the shop here is always evolving, right? Because you have different customers that come in, so I’ll even make juices like Pandan leaf for Vietnamese people, things that Americans won’t hit. Product-wise it’s a different market here than in America.
What are some of the differences?
The biggest difference is that the majority of Vietnamese don’t have money to spend. Like a quality product that is on Facebook or on youtube that people do reviews on, they cost anywhere between a hundred to a hundred and seventy dollars and Vietnamese people can’t afford it, and if they can afford it, they question if it’s real or not.
Do you spend a lot of time teaching people about vaping?
I welcome anybody to my shop. I’ve even taught other shop owners how to build, correct coil etiquette, about ohms and the workload for specific batteries. But then they’ll be like “yea ok, ok, that’s fine I understand” but when they open their vape shop, they go straight back into the Vietnamese way of thinking, buying the cheapest batteries they can buy, getting the maximum money for each battery, even though it’s not a good battery.
Is there anybody else doing what you do in Vietnam?
Yea, there are other people who think the way I think but because the majority of the people are uneducated in vaping, it doesn’t really dent it, like, it doesn’t matter. You go into like those vaping forums on Facebook everyone’s asking the same questions: “I do this many wraps it’s this many ohms what’s the wattage,” every single mod comes with the screen, they tell you exactly what it’s supposed to be at the only problem is the majority of people here they don’t speak English so they can’t go onto like youtube and watch Westerner reviewers like Riptripper.
You have someone who’s doing review videos for you now?
Hoang Tripper. We just started, we have one review video out on one of the products. The reason why I started the reviews is because people are buying clones for authentic prices. That’s a problem. You buy a clone for six dollars to eight dollars, and you sell it for 2.4 million? I understand inflation but not multiplied by 24. And they don’t realize it until they come to my shop and they actually see the authentic and see the difference. So we’ll be doing review videos maybe one every two weeks on expensive parts.
So you’re evolving as your following evolves?
Yea, but the thing is like there’s so many shops opening in Saigon right now, like every three days there’s a new shop opening. The thing is Vietnamese people, when something’s new, they’d rather go there, they’ll come back to my shop but maybe after a little period of time. A new shop opens, they’ll chill there for like a month. They’re just trying to see what else is out there because I only carry certain things, I don’t carry everything. I carry things that I would personally use, things that I would like building for people and not just like “oh, it’s popular” so I’ll carry it.
Can you tell me more about your personal evolution in vaping?
I had to quit smoking. I was a two pack a day smoker and I was smoking Newports, so like menthol, since I was 11 and I coughed up part of my lung about seven years ago. I went home, I had a doctor’s appointment, I was bleeding internally, they said that the menthol had cut up the bottom portion of my right lung so it was either quit smoking or die. And then I found vaping. And I’ve been consistently vaping for 4.5 years.
Read more at http://vietcetera.com