WICKER PARK — A waiting room inside of a Division Street car wash has been transformed into a smoke-alternative shop called Vape.
Vape opened last week and "so far, it's going well," according to co-owner Daryl Cura, 34, who is renting out the waiting room of the Wicker Hand Car Wash at 2123 W. Division St. to sell personal vaporizers, more commonly known as e-cigarettes.
"It's a nice alternative to smoking. It's like a portable hookah," Cura said of the high-tech devices, which provide an oral fixation useful for people who want to "ease off" smoking cigarettes, he said.
About a block west of the bustling Damen Avenue and Division Street intersection, the high-traffic location was chosen because Vape's co-owner, Joe Srichinda, is the brother of Stephen Srichinda, owner of the car wash.
"Instead [of my brother] paying high rent, I offered them this space to test it out," said Stephen Srichinda, 35.
Stephen Srichinda recently replaced the concrete floors of the 300-square-foot waiting room with new wood flooring to make the space more inviting.
Stephen Srichinada said there is an additional waiting room inside the garage of the car wash for patrons, though people have continued to sit in the Vape storefront while waiting for their cars to be washed too.
A user of Vape's products, Stephen Srichinda said he was smoking an e-cigarette inside a bar recently and the staff "wasn't sure what it was."
"They were like what is this? Can you do this in here?" Stephen Srichinda said, noting that the only thing exhaled is water vapor.
Electronic cigarettes, which create a nicotine-infused vapor for users to inhale, replicate the feeling of smoking without some of the health dangers caused by smoking — though the FDA has yet to determine what health risks the devices pose.
Vape's e-cigs — made from stainless steel, aluminum and brass — are available in an array of colors and range in price from $40 to $200.
The devices contain a combination of liquid ingredients, called "e-liquids" or "e-juice."
The liquids are made of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, flavor extract and if a customer wants, nicotine. Propylene glycol is a chemical used in candy manufacturing as well as dairy products.
A menu of nearly 30 flavors of "e-juice" is posted to the wall of Vape and includes Slurricane (a blend of all tropical fruit), Jungle Fever (mango and pineapple), Midnight Express (traditional tobacco flavor) and Peach Fuzz, among others.
The liquids cost $7.99 for a 10-milliliter bottle or $12.99 for a 15-milliliter bottle.
Cura said the 15-milliliter bottle would last a pack-a-day smoker about one week.
E-cigarettes in general have been gaining in popularity as an alternative to smoking without the tar and tobacco of cigarettes. In the U.S., sales last year were between $300 million and $500 million, double the sales from the year before.
Vape joins other businesses that have emerged in recent months to capitalize on the trend.
Vape, 2123 W. Division St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon-Sat.; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Ph: 773-245-4192.