William Ackermann and Nicholas Herndon decided to open a "boutique style" smoke and vape shop in downtown Lake Oswego, not knowing doors would initially open amid a pandemic.
Gladstone resident Ackermann and West Linn resident Nicholas Herndon co-own Paradox, which has two other locations in Wilsonville and Woodburn. They decided to open a third location in Lake Oswego due to the lack of competition in the area.
"We cater more toward the mature market," said Ackermann, adding that they "wanted to fill that void" in Lake Oswego.
While Paradox sells CBD, vape and glass products, the store does not sell cannabis, which can't legally be sold in Lake Oswego.
"We follow all the rules," said Ackermann, adding that it's rare to find shops that enforce all of the rules, including not selling to minors and vaping inside the shop. "We've always tried to be respectful of a community and not tried to be intrusive in the perceived aesthetics of a specific town."
Ackermann said he and Herndon assumed the lease in downtown Lake Oswego at 468 N State St., Suite 100 last October. They spent a significant amount of time renovating — they worked on the floors, shelving, ceiling, paint and more. Ackermann said they also ran into mishaps with companies shipping the wrong products like the floorboards and wall-hanging shelving.
"It was tricky," Ackermann said.
The store also had supply chain issues since they were renovating and setting up shop when news of China's major outbreak hit the United States. COVID-19 and Chinese New Year delayed the shipping of products and made it difficult to obtain certain supplies, though Ackermann said they do get a lot of their products, like e-liquid, stateside.
Ackermann remembered when the first case in Lake Oswego made the news in February. He joked that Paradox was going to open during a quarantine. About a month later, he realized how serious things were becoming.
"We are considered an essential business. There's various reasoning for that (but) my rationale is as long as dispensaries and liquor stores are open, I'll also be open," he said. "We basically just had to throw our doors open."
Ackermann said they were able to encourage existing customers who live closer to the Lake Oswego location to visit that specific shop.
Business has been slow-moving — though that's expected when first opening a business, Ackermann said.
Ackermann, Herndon and a manager who has worked at the other locations are operating the Lake Oswego store.
"Until we turn a higher profit there's not going to be new hires," said Ackermann, adding that since the store opened, they've had three zero-dollar days. "It's a little dejecting."
Though the Lake Oswego location hasn't been turning a profit, Ackermann said they're financially stable with the other two locations.
"We've been basically covering overhead," said Ackermann about the Lake Oswego shop. They've been able to cover rent, power, internet and other necessities. "I think any business, it takes about a year to really start turning a profit and establishing your career."
Currently, only four people can enter the store at a time and staff are regularly disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Curbside pickup is also available to people who call the store beforehand.
"The virus, it is a threat to the supply chain to a certain extent," said Ackermann, adding that if another outbreak happens in China, he doesn't know what that will mean for supply — high-quality products are popular and still hard to obtain, though Ackermann said this has gotten better over the last few weeks.
Ackermann said there has also been uncertainty within the vaping industry prior to the virus, which is concerning — banning flavors and reports of lung illnesses associated with vaping are examples of what's impacted the vaping industry.
"In terms of what the future holds, yeah I'm worried," he said.
For more information on Paradox, visit the website.
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