June 10, 2011
By Neil Strachan
I thought these ??Smoke Shops? were fake, until I met Norm at Smoke-N-Stuff on Mission Gorge Road. What a great guy, and what a business. People coming in constantly to buy one of the many items that he sells at the store. I was shocked at the level of business. Also, I liked the people that were coming into the store. A lot of couples, and everyone looked like they were in the military or middle class. Where were the dregs of society? They weren??t here.
Also, I had to idea of the quality of the pipes that were being sold. Some of them were beautiful. The women would look carefully through the alternatives until they found the very one that was the one that they wanted.
Norm has had the business for three years and acts as a distributor to companies in Los Angeles because of the fine
Located on Mission Gorge just a few blocks north of Interstate 8, the store was clean with a layout of products that made it easy for the prospective buyers to look for the product that they wanted.
It was fantastic watching Norm with both his customers and the neighboring businesses. What a personality. Finally, on one wall was a collection of magazines and CDs that were pretty interesting.
If you smoke, and want to have the unusual pipe or tobacco, this is the place that I would recommend.
The weight of the world can do awful things to the mind, body, and spirit. That's where Sun Path Academy comes in. The holistic academy, located in the Third Avenue village, provides an alternative to the pills and the Dr. Phil when it comes to personal growth.
Owner Xochitl Bohon has made it her personal mission in life to improve the lives of others by sharing her knowledge of holistic healing with anyone who feels lost with the path they have taken, or has an ailment that they would rather fix a more natural way.
"When I think of the people [who come here], I think of them as getting tired of having no meaning in life, says Bohon, who has been practicing holistic health for 20 years and has been in business for five years. "People are realizing that there's more to life than work. They're realizing there's something more profound in life."
She helps people find their moment of catharsis through meditation, breathing, and personal growth classes. Bohon also has someone available who gives tarot reading, numerology, past life, and reiki sessions, for which an ancient Indian blessing is given that balances the chakras and improves spiritual and physical health.
Despite its unconventional nature, the shop doesn't feel like entering a strange place filled with weird ideas. It feels more like entering a small Hallmark filled with magical crystals, Buddah statues, and other items that Bohon assures can do wonders for the body and soul.
Bohon herself exudes a calming energy. She speaks softly and quietly, and has that glow of someone with very clean chakras. Or so that's what I imagine is responsible for her demeanor. People who come in seem easger to share their stories of otherworldly happenings that have impacted their lives.
It might seem like the hectic rig-a-ma-role of everyday life has no let up and that there is no real time to focus on you. Thankfully, Herbin Acupuncture and Wellness has got that taken care of. Since moving into their Hillcrest location in 2009, Lori Powell and Lara Koljonen have turned the experience of self-healing and improvement into a fun, hip environment. Whether you are looking to find relaxation from a hectic day, need to find a method to stop smoking that actually works, or are celebrating yourself for simply being you, Herbin Acupuncture has your daily dose of wellness. "We wanted to create a community," says Koljonen, who is also a licensed practitioner at Herbin. "Internal beauty on the inside, external beauty on the outside, in an urban environment, all while promoting up-shifting and energizing products."Clients can partake in massage, reiki, and acupuncture for pretty low costs, but a monthly membership is available for $45 a month and gets you three mini-treatments. For those looking to start out, the Herbin Playground complete with zero gravity chairs, tea, iPods, and much more??has a number of programs to help you grow and rebuild your mind, body, and soul. Life is good and Herbin Acupuncture and Wellness just makes it even better.
For some people cars are not just a means of transportation, they are an extension of a individual's personality. Any one can pick out a car from a dealership and drive it off the lot. But it takes a creative spirit to spend the time and money necessary to create an automobile that draws looks wherever it rolls. Edgar Ramirez and the team at Pimp Ur Ride have been helping their customers express themselves since 2004.
The company does not advertise in traditional ways. Instead, the cars they work on serve as rolling billboards. People are naturally curious and usually ask the owners "who did the custom work on your car?"
Since his days in high school, Edgar has always been "messing around" with cars. "A friend of mine got me started," explains Edgar. He's been dedicated to this industry and his business ever since.
A customer at the store, Trelisha "Pepper" Wallace, raves about her experiences here, "I love this place. Me and my husband come here for everything we need." She explains that it is not just the custom work that brings them back. "We come here when are car needs work. They do whatever we need. Under the hood, oil, new tires. It is the best service I have ever had."
The custom paint jobs draw the most attention. The company recently painted a Chevy Blazer with a theme from the movie Scarface in mind. Half of the car was painted black, the other half white. It was complete with an Al Pacino-like figure holding a handgun on the hood.
The cars with the unique paint jobs are the most visible but the company also does other jobs like spot painting, collision repair and they specialize in installing security alarms, rims, upholstery work and custom audio and video equipment.
Pimping your ride does not have to be expensive. Even a small luxury, like a new stereo or set of speakers can enhance your daily commute.
Finally, Pimp Ur Ride is one of the donors to the Make A Wish Foundation. They have done three cars as of the date of this article, but are already planning a fourth. This includes complete paint, new interior, wheels and tires. What a company!
This is the only DJ store in the South Bay that specializes in sales and rentals of DJ essentials. The larger ??centers? that sell guitars and other items do not have the experience that Ray Malinao and his team of DJs have assembled.
The walls are lined with headphones, needles, and other accessories that DJs need like audio cables and specialty connectors/adapters. ??I wanted to create a place where local DJs can find equipment from experienced DJs with years of experience,? says Ray. The DJ community, according to Ray is ??very tight knit? and they appreciate a place where they can come to hone their craft and purchase supplies.
Ray started DJing when he was thirteen years old. The business has been in this location since 2008.
??It??s in my blood,? continues Ray. He grew up spinning music and was influenced by Jazzy Jeff, Rodney O and Joe Cooley.
He still DJs himself at corporate parties, weddings and every Friday night at Nico??s Steakhouse in Chula Vista. Most of the events that he covers ask that he play an ??open format,? meaning that the music is a wide variety of hits from the past forty years.
There is a wide variety of equipment available for sale and/or rent. Fog machines, speakers, amplifiers, electronic lights and much more pack the store. All the items are very well organized and displayed. DVS even carries albums, if you are old enough to remember what those are. Additionally, they stock an eclectic array of T-shirts and other trendy accessories.
The store also offers CD duplication and graphic design services for other DJs and people needing fliers to promote their events.
There are far too many people in the world with terrible tattoos, and too many two-bit hacks giving them. That's why reknowned tattoo artistist "Southbay Mike" warns everyone to "think before you ink." Or at the very least, call him up and make an appointment to get a permanent inking from someone who considers himself one of the true "old school" artists in the field.
Mike has been tattooing for 21 years, opening his first shop in Chula Vista back in 1996. Now he calls Southbay Tattoo at 295 3rd Avenue his artistic home, coming in solely to work on clients who make an appointment by phone. He guarantees the quality of his craft and makes no secret of his disdain for wannabes buying a tattoo gun online and calling themselves artists just because they can somewhat draw.
"I don't appreciate homemade artists," says Southbay Mike, who's tough exterior only slightly hides the fact that he's a caring family man that has a deep passion for is work. "I love the machine, and there's people out there destroying the art of tattooing. It's lost its attractiveness and has been cheapened. Us real tattoo artists look down on that because we put a lot of time into doing it the right way."
Perhaps the fact that tattoos have been a source of wonder for Southbay Mike is the reason he feels so protective of the artform. As a kid, he was always mystified by the colorful, permanent drawings he'd see on people's arms. In fact, he believed it was actual "magic." Later in life, after beginning the process of learning how to create this magic, he realized it was actually hard work to create that magic. But that has never stopped him from doing what he can to "keep the magic alive" through his intricate, cleanly designed pieces.
He admits that his commissioned pieces don't come at a bargain price. That's because he feels that "a good tattoo aint cheap, and a cheap tattoo ain't good." Even then, he will forego charging anyone if they're not happy with the work he's done. Not that that has ever happened. And seeing first-hand his work, I can see why. It's classic, clean, and smoothly finished. The woman he was working on, who also happens to be is apprentice, had no bleeding - a sure sign of an artist that knows what he's doing.
Tea parties are no longer just for little girls in princess dresses. My Cup of Tea Unique Gifts, at the tail end of the 3rd Avenue village, provides a warm atmosphere where grown ups can have their very own tea party.
The small shop is owned by retiree Janet Goff, who started working at the tea shop voluntarily six years ago when it was located down the street and owned by another fellow tea aficionado.
"My daughter one day said `You know, there's a tea shop that just opened up on 3rd' because my children know I've been crazy about tea forever," said Goff. "I came by and found the tea shop after I got off work that day and went in and had a cup of tea."
Despite having her tea served in a styrofoam cup, something she feels "takes away the ambiance" of the tea drinking experience, she kept coming back and enjoying her favorite drink. Eventually she volunteered her services. After the former owner decided it was time to sell, Goff made an offer for the business. Once she took over she decided to move the location and do things a bit differently.
Goff explains: "As you can see I use China. I'll do dishes. I have no problem with that. And the business picked up a lot more since she had it."
The shop is modeled to look like a little English tea shop and carries 100 different types of tea from all over the world that are sold by the ounce, or can be enjoyed in store with a scone, lemon curd, and clotted cream. A full tea service is also available with a reservation, which includes three types of sandwiches. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and since the shop also carries adorable, knick knacks like teaspoons, teapots, and animal-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers, walking in feels like coming over to grandma's house.
As a tea drinker myself, I looked forward to trying one of the brews. Goff served up a blend of chamomile and mint that was not only delicious but also soothing. I couldn't help but feel warmed to the bone, especially because of the chilly winter weather outside. And sitting down for tea was relaxing. There was something about the experience that was calming and simply nice.
That's no surprise to Goff, who turns to tea for all ailments and emotions.
She says, "I drink tea to wake up. I drink tea to go to sleep. Because I don't feel good. Because I'm happy. I drink it for any old reason."
After trying her tea, it's not hard to see why.
When Quincy Do was ten years old his father moved to the United States. His dad was forced to leave his family behind in Vietnam. For ten years Quincy??s dad, Lam Do, worked different jobs until he was able to afford to bring Quincy??s mom and four brothers to National City.
Quincy recalls the day in 1989 when his family was reunited. ??It was very emotional, I was twenty years old and the last time I had seen my dad was when I was a kid.?
The family set out to help Lam run his newly opened furniture business.
At one point in 1991 the family owned 8 furniture stores. But between then and 1993 the family saw business decline and they now have two furniture stores. One is located in National City and the other is off El Cajon Boulevard near the I-15 highway. ??The recession of the 1990??s and the first Gulf War caused our business to slow down,? believes Quincy.
One of the better outcomes of the family??s predicament is they have housed all of their experience and the finest furniture from their other businesses in National City. The store is adorned with quality watercolor paintings and filled to the brim with mattresses, dining sets, sofas, cabinets and home dcor accessories.
The store is very clean and well organized and they offer no payment down financing via Wells Fargo. ??About 15% of our customers,? choose to finance their new furniture because they can avoid paying interest for at least a year. The store also offers free delivery within the National City limits.
The staff speaks Spanish and English fluently and is happy to answer questions with a no pressure attitude.
The use of space at Comic Odyssey is an interesting mix of behind the counter collectibles. A comic lounge area complete with wide screen TV is at the end of the store past the tournament style gaming tables. In comparison to other comic stores this one is not crowded and very open. The result is a store that encourages social interaction and makes customers naturally want to visit here for as long as their time will allow.
??We have tournaments every week,? explains Ali Rios, the store??s owner. Yu-Gi-Oh, a chess-like card game, is still very popular but the biggest turnout at the store is for the video game, Street Fighter 4. The virtual fighting action allows players to absorb attacks and then strategize their next counter attacks.
Xbox and Playstation 3 consoles line the tables during tournament play and Comic Odyssey keeps track of the player??s progress until finally a winner is announced. ??It??s every man for himself,? says Rios. The store sells specialty fight sticks for the game but many players bring in their own to show off the custom artwork that appears on some of the sticks.
Rios has been operating Odyssey since 2009 when he took it over from its former owner. Being the only employee has its benefits. Customers are on a first name basis and one can tell that Rios goes the extra mile to know what captivates and interests his customers.
Collectible figures dot the shelves and everything from Transformers to the young Obi Wan fighting Darth Vader line the counters.
Of course, no self-described comic store would be complete if it did not have a considerable collection of comics. Two entire walls of the store are devoted to neatly arranged comics with a wide variety of new and older comics available for sale.
In all, the store is very friendly and popular amongst the 17-35 year old customers who frequent the store regularly. Be sure to call ahead to find the next tournament. The store welcomes new and expert players of all skill levels.
Yogurt World was around before the increasingly popular phenomenon that is Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt. You walk in, browse the flavors, select your toppings and make your own creation. The set-up for most of these frozen-yogurt shops is all pretty much all the same; but what comes out of the machines is subject to the quality of the frozen-yogurt manufacturer. Yogurt World has ensured a way to provide not only the freshest yogurt, but also flavors you won??t be able to get anywhere but here!
Yogurt World has been doing things the same way since their grand opening in 2007. They are affiliated with a dairy farm just north of San Diego that is contracted to make custom flavors unique to Yogurt World. Mike, the owner, supplies the recipe to the dairy farm, which carries out the order. The result is mouth-watering flavors like Green Coconut and Asian tart that you cannot get anywhere else.
I tried the green coconut with fresh mango slices mixed in with the frozen-yogurt. I was a bit skeptical because I thought green coconuts weren??t ripe yet but I was made a believer when I caught myself licking the bowl.