Brian K Wong and Aron Lynn are no strangers to the vape game. Their retail boutique, “Vapes By Enushi”, has gained a reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful shops, and caters to everyone from beginners to high-end mod collectors. The store location is in Markham, Ontario. Vapes By Enushi also recently partnered with another colleague and released their own e-liquid line – Marco Polo Vape Co., that stresses the vaping journey. They are currently working on new offerings for the very near future.
Vapes By Enushi is a place where you’ll find everything from e-liquids to accessories to high-end hardware products by Dee Mods, Taifun, Vicious Ant, SVA, and Hussar, just to name a few. I can honestly state through personal experience, you will be hard pressed to find better people to deal with – with available product, sales and service including verbal and email communication.
Vapes by Enushi recently handled the North American release for Estoque Mods latest offering, the EVM. Let’s chat briefly with Brian:
TVR: Brian, did you wake up one day with the thought to open up a vape shop?
The idea to open up a vape shop had practically fallen into my lap through circumstance, but it took quite a bit of time considering it before I finally decided to commit to it and move forward. The idea had brewed in my mind for a good half year before I committed to it, but once the decision was made, we went full speed ahead very quickly.
Back in August of 2013, I stumbled upon vaping as a solution to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. I felt my health was declining with the amount I was smoking, but I enjoyed the act and sensation of it. A friend soon introduced me to vaping. It was a cheap disposable unit, but it worked. It kept me off cigarettes… for a day, until either the battery or e-liquid had depleted. Then I went back to smoking cigarettes, but it made me realize it was a viable solution. At that point, I started researching rechargeable and refillable options and a whole new world opened up before me.
Vaping product innovation was also beginning to pick up speed at that time, and it was difficult to keep on top of how much new stuff was being released on a hobbyist level, but each time something hot came out, I purchased it to check it out. The number of items that I was ordering also started to increase, because at first, a few friends wanted to hop on to an order, and then friends of those friends wanted that product. Very quickly, it turned into a full time job, managing all those orders.
The problem with vaping in Toronto at that time, was that we did not have many vape shops, so being able to see and handle product was difficult. In most cases, I had to take a shot in the dark and order an item off the internet just to see what made it work. We needed better vape shops with more inventory.
From 2013 to 2014, one of my vaping buddies, Aron Lynn and I spent a fair bit of time traveling to various cities across North America, and we made an effort to visit shops in each city. As I got deeper into the vaping hobby, I looked at other stores around the world and admired how some of those stores looked and what they offered to their customers. Our trips slowly began turning into trips specifically to see certain shops. However, every time we came back to Toronto, we were disappointed with what shops had at home, and one day, while looking at some really nice vape shops in the US, Aron said to me “we should open a vape shop like this, but have the features from this other store, and the offerings that we saw at that other store.” Right away, I said “no”, because I’m a skeptic like that. I also was not sure about having to be tied to a store, having to man it 7 days a week within set times – exactly like I’m doing now. Go figure.
Months passed, and we watched one of Toronto’s first great shops open up, Dash Vapes, and for a moment, it seemed to fulfil what I was looking for as a hobbyist and consumer. The idea to open up a store subsided in my mind, but at the same time, my personal hobby and business continued to grow and more people were coming to me to purchase product.
September 2014 rolls around, a full year since I started into this hobby which had turned into a full-time online business. Aron and I were sitting on a beach in Jamaica at that time along with some friends, we were vaping and having a few drinks while chatting. Within the span of an hour, we had a number of people stop by, asking us about what we were smoking or vaping, and some good conversations struck up. Aron asked me again “hey, you want to open up a shop? It would help you get over the problem about strangers wanting to see our products at your home before they buy. And selling e-liquids as well just makes sense. It’s another income stream.”
Those were the two biggest hurdles I had with running an online-only store, and it made sense. I thought about it for a moment, and I think Aron sensed my hesitation, but he also sensed I wasn’t opposed to it as much as before. He jumped into a pitch that laid down the entire corporate structure of the company, customer experience, product offerings, branding, customer retention strategies, and employee incentive programs. For 30 minutes, we bounced ideas off each other that got both of us fired up. There was synergy. When Aron finished his pitch, he asked me, “so what do you think?” At that moment, I said to myself “if I’m going to do this, I want THIS guy to be my business partner”, and from that point on, the wheels went into full gear.
Over the course of the next 3 weeks, we looked into multiple commercial spaces to build the store, and also went to every single vape shop that was available in the city to research customer experience, to product offerings, and sales volume. We needed to make sure the numbers worked. We crunched our numbers hard, and the decision was concrete enough to move forward.
October 1st, 2014, we signed a lease and picked up our keys for what is now the headquarters of Vapes by Enushi and the real journey began.
TVR: Your store caters to everyone from beginner right up to the seasoned collector. Did you have a “vision” of what you wanted your store to be when you opened?
Yes, absolutely. In our visits to many vape shops in and outside of Toronto, we saw things we liked, and we saw things we didn’t like. We remembered to capture elements we liked, but we also remembered to eliminate elements that we didn’t like. It wasn’t just vape shops that we took inspiration from; we also took elements that we liked from high-end luxury boutiques for clothing and jewellery, sampling bars for fine alcohol, and luxury car dealerships. As much as we wanted to jump right into a high-end luxury vaping boutique, we knew it was unrealistic and risky without an existing customer base. You know what they say, “fake it till you make it”, so we wanted to start by bringing a luxury boutique type of shopping experience to the masses first. Offer reasonably priced starter kits and beginner product to start until our name and customer base was developed into something where we could cater to the high end and advanced hobbyist vaper as well.
Ultimately, our goal was to build a foundation that would allow us to cast the widest net possible to capture the largest audience. Create an inviting space that welcomed male and female vapers, older and younger vapers, and vapers of all experience levels from older smokers looking to quit smoking through vaping for the first time, to advanced users looking for a nice environment to hang out in while they check out the newest hardware or e-liquid releases and chat with knowledgeable staff about the newest industry topics. As long as we had our core ideals set, then it didn’t matter if we sold low-end product or high-end premium product. Customer service has always been one of our core goals, from the pre-sale to the after-sale support. Education was also a huge goal of ours that we harnessed. When the customer feels cared for, it builds rapport and loyalty. Customers like going to a shop where they are remembered, and the customer experience is what matters most to us, and is what allowed us to build up the brand to where it is.
I am quite honored to say that we have met many of the goals that we set out at the start, but we are always evolving and growing.
TVR: You carry some of the most coveted vape gear. Can you tell us why you’d go through that instead of just the standard vape shop gear?
Like a Rolex versus a Timex, they both essentially do the same thing (tell time) at drastically different price points. In fact, it can even be argued that a Timex tells time better than a Rolex, but what is it that makes customers buy a Rolex despite costing so much more? There is an innate desire for luxury product and service in everyone. For those who appreciate the art, many are willing to pay for exotic materials, quality hand made craftsmanship, or enjoy the mechanics and design of a certain luxury product. Certainly, it is not possible for everyone due to financial constraints, but that’s why there are products that exist for every budget, and we do not discriminate the service quality a customer receives based on what they spend with us.
From a numbers standpoint, carrying high end, rare, and hard-to-get product makes very little business sense, but from a marketing standpoint, it offers huge gains. In the beginning, when we first started selling high-end hardware, we brought in a few pieces at a time on custom order for customers. One of our mottos was to never leave a customer with “no” as an answer, whenever they asked us if we could get them something. Our answer was always “let me see and get back to you on it.” It surprisingly wasn’t hard to start bringing in a few pieces here and there, but we made very little to no money on small custom orders at the time, because our volume of high-end product purchase offered us little to no margin. In a few cases, we made not even a penny on a sale, but we always asked our customers if we could get permission to take a photo of the custom ordered product to add to our catalog. Once that product went online, then people searching for the product would lead to our store. Even if we no longer had it in stock, now the customers knew that it was possible for them to get such a product through us. The marketing value of this is immeasurable and worth more than the dollar value margin we got in return.
High-end product requires more marketing resources, more pre-sales care, more customer service care, capital costs are far higher, and in many cases, the margin is also slimmer than mass-market products. However, it is for this same reason that we saw an untapped niche in the Canadian market. I might even go so far as to say that it is an untapped niche in the North American market, as I am not aware of any brick & mortar store in North America that has the same online presence and product catalog that we carry. There are a couple of online stores in the US that carry big high-end catalogs like ours, but you cannot walk into their showrooms to see and handle the product. This allowed us to stand out in a big way, because we can’t even count how many shops exist in North America that only carry mass-market product. High-end product also gave me tons of subject matter for one of my hobbies and past professions: photography. The photos that I’ve posted on social media were real door openers to get beside the coveted modders around the world, and even to having them approach us to carry their product. Once that introduction was set, things really began to snowball, and I am truly humbled when I open a conversation with a modder I haven’t spoken with before by introducing myself and my company, and modders respond with “Brian, I am very well aware of who you are and your store…”
TVR “Estoque Mods by ES” is a Taiwan based company. How did your relationship with Estoque happen?
Prior to the EVM, I had never spoken to Erie Tsui – the modder behind ES, but we were both aware of each other due to the products ES was making, and the marketing I was doing for other brands within the social media space.
I had my eyes on Estoque Mods for quite a while. I first noticed them with their Estoque Mod back in 2015. It was an absolutely gorgeous form of stabilized wood that used 26650 batteries during the huge spike in popularity for that form factor. It was truly a unicorn for that time, as they were difficult to get for the uninitiated, and it was far beyond my budget, but the name stayed in my mind.
In 2016, Estoque Mods released the ES-Z rebuildable dripping tank atomizer which was innovative in the way it separated the deck from the tank, but more so because it used a nearly scratch-proof ceramic coating for the cap. It was another absolutely beautiful design that was quite above average in price.
2017 came around, and Estoque’s next release was the Ethereal 18, another gorgeous sculpture of stabilized wood and rare exotic metals. Again, the Ethereal 18 came into the market at a price point that would make most consumers shrivel, but it was an item that once again, set Estoque Mods as a name commonly mentioned within circles of enthusiasts of high-end vaping gear.
It was a surprise when the EVM was announced, for a number of reasons. First, because it was their first bottom feed mod. Second, because it was their first mechanical style mod. Third, because it utilizes a 100% custom designed MOSFET chipset (by Estoque Mods) to offer safety protection features and haptic feedback along with great technical specifications – the first such product to integrate all these features into a product. Finally, the biggest standout feature of the EVM, was its relatively accessible price point. It filled a niche price point that was previously unavailable for quality-made bottom fed mods. Cheaper Chinese-made product filled the sub-$200 price point. Expensive international product filled the $450+ price point. There was nothing much else in between, so the EVM perfectly filled a niche by sitting right in the middle at CAD$367. Combined with the coveted name that Estoque Mods carried, plus their precision fabrication that they were known for, the EVM was sure to be a good product that hit a lot of check marks that the industry needed.
Right away, I saw an opportunity to fill that gap in my product catalog, so I reached out to Erie to do my usual introduction and to ask if this was a product that would be distributed on a retail level, and weeks of discussion regarding business models for the EVM were bounced off each other till we settled on an exclusive distribution agreement for this product across North America.
It is exciting to have Enushi bring products like this to the North American market. Congrats to Brian and Aron on this launch. Watch for the Estoque Mods EVM coming soon in the hardware reviews section.
Vapes By Enushi
#18-8241 Woodbine Avenue
T: 905.470.VAPE (8273)