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By Daniel Davey
With the advent of vaping, and the increasing popularity of hemp-based oils and derivatives (CBD), smoke shops have opened up all across Western New York. It seems inevitable, then, that one would open in Lewiston.
Some might say that’s fortunate. Some might consider it with a shoulder shrug.
For Omar Ali, owner and proprietor of O’s Smoke Shop on Center Street, the fit is obvious. Having just opened in June, already Ali’s customers, it seems, come from everywhere. When operating the original O’s Smoke Shop in Niagara Falls, he had found his customers were coming from all over Niagara County.
“There was customers from Lewiston, Youngstown, Wilson. I wished I’d had something closer for them. When I saw this location, I said it’s perfect. You know, it’s a small little location right on Center Street. I thought to bring something new to Lewiston,” Ali said. “And you know, Lewiston is beautiful.”
He seems to have accomplished something new, by reworking something old. A walk into the Center Street shop immediately reveals a stunning and colorful array of merchandise likely never seen in the village. Decades past, such establishments were referred to as head shops – the idea being that the goods therein were for one’s mind, and the related counterculture movements to expand it. But times have changed, at least somewhat.
Here one can find a probable array of smoking products – there are cigarettes and a wide selection of cigars. There are a variety of CBD flowers and Kratom powder, both of which are for smoking. And, of course, numerous vaping products. But, Ali says, “Some people, they don’t smoke, and they don’t want to vape, so there’s (CBD) edibles. And a lot of your older people, if they have back pain, arthritis, anxiety … it helps with that. A lot of people have tried it, and they came back and got more because it helped them.”
And with that array of smoking products, O’s stocks a comparable selection of paraphernalia to smoke them with. Among them are a stunning assortment of bongs, or “glass,” as they’re referred to by today’s consumers. There are hookahs and pipes and clips and masks. All in a remarkable variety of shapes and colors and sizes.
“It’s different. It’s different for the Village of Lewiston. And a lot of people seem to like it. For my customers, they’re happy it’s here, it’s close to them. And there’s a little bit of everything here for them,” Ali said.
He is convinced the character of Lewiston especially brings another aspect to his shop. “I like the tourists that come here. It’s nice when I get customers from different states. They go to the restaurants, and come in and grab a cigar after dinner. The bars here and the restaurants – they just walk; you see a lot of walkers, and they see us.”
“A lot of locals come in and love it, too,” said Hannah Thompson, primary sales and service person at the shop. “People have really liked the location, and especially tourists when they’re here walking up and down Center Street and they see it.”
Thompson said many of the customers coming from out of state come from places where such shops are common, and not so common.
“They think it’s really interesting to come here and see something in the community like this,” she said.
That community feel is part of what has brought Ali to Lewiston. Before opening the shop, he’d spent a good amount of time in the village, frequenting the restaurants and visiting other establishments and riverfront.
“It’s beautiful here in Lewiston Ali said.
He’d like the shop to be a part of that community. And he’s begun stocking it with merchandise that he hopes brings the community in, offering shirts, hats, backpacks, mugs, skateboards, jewelry and pieces of art.
“The earrings are actually made by a local girl who lives in Lewiston,” Thompson said, and indicated that other items, such as clips, are also made by a local craftsperson.
“We’re definitely interested in any local made stuff we can get in the store,” Ali said. “We’d like there to be something here for just about everybody.”
Offering up what’s new with a bit of what’s old, O’s is sure to get even more attention of a curious community and walkers-by. And they’re looking to make a good impression.
“There’s a good amount of people who come in who don’t smoke. They come in and just look around and talk and ask questions,” Thompson said.
Added Ali: “And a lot of people that used to smoke back in the day, they come in and they’re like, ‘Wow!’ It reminds them of the ’60s or ’70s.”
“But these days,” added Thompson, “it’s all just more accepted as a whole.”
O’s Smoke Shop is located at 482 Center St., Lewiston.