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Store that specializes in e-cigarettes opens on 23rd Street; update on Menards project

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I'm not a smoker, and as my struggles to operate my VCR remote demonstrate, I'm not always a whiz with electronic gizmos either. So, although I have heard of electronic cigarettes, I figured they weren't for me.

Jack Tran, owner of a new Lawrence store that specializes in selling e-cigarettes, agrees. But he is betting that the store will be just the ticket for thousands of smokers in the area.

"I'm not recommending this to people who don't smoke already," said Tran. "But I think it will be great for people who do smoke and are looking for a healthier alternative."

Tran earlier this month opened up Juice-E-Vapes, a store that sells only e-cigarettes and e-cigarette supplies, at 1216 E. 23rd St. For those of you trying to picture the location, it is in the building that houses the Avis car rental company.

Perhaps you are like me — a perpetually confused parent — who thinks Juice-E-Vapes sounds like a $2 juice box that my kids will insist on having in their lunch sacks. (That's right, no high tech lunch boxes for my kids.) But Tran explains that Vapes is short for vaping, which is the term that has become associated with the act of "smoking" an e-cigarette. As for the Juice, well, the e-cigarettes are filled with a juice-like liquid that creates a vapor when heated by a battery-powered element.

The store stocks more than 100 different flavors of the juices. Some simulate tobacco flavors, while others mimic the taste of fruit juices, snacks, candies, or your favorite drinks. The juices can be purchased with or without nicotine. People trying to quit smoking can gradually reduce the nicotine mixture.

"What really made me decide to start this store is that I used to smoke cigarettes," Tran said. "About two years ago, I quit cigarettes because I started vaping instead. It helped me a lot in quitting."

Plus, it appears to be a growing business. I found an interesting article written deep in the heart of tobacco country by The Charlotte Observer. It reports that e-cigarette sales are expected to hit the $1 billion mark in 2013, up from $500 million in 2012.

Offshoots of the big tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris are in the process of releasing their own e-cigarettes. Their rapid rise in popularity has created questions about whether scientists understand enough about the health effects of the e-cigarettes and how the product fits in with a host of smoking bans that have been adopted across the country.

The Observer describes the liquid that is heated by the e-cigarette as a mixture of propylene glycol (a common chemical used in many food products), vegetable glycerin, flavorings and nicotine. The article notes that little research has been done on the health effects of inhaling a nicotine-laced vapor.

But anti-tobacco advocates have been hesitant to deride the e-cigarettes because it does appear that a water vapor-based product would create fewer health effects than the traditional tobacco-based cigarettes.

As for how the products fit in with local smoking bans, it appears the bans don't restrict the use of e-cigarettes. The Kansas Attorney General issued an opinion in 2011 that said the use of e-cigarettes was allowed under the statewide smoking ban because the product doesn't involve tobacco or the use of a flame. Lawrence has its own smoking ban, but it is similar to the state ban and Tran says the Lawrence ban allows e-cigarettes too. (I've got an e-mail into the city attorney to confirm that. UPDATE: I heard back from the city attorney's office, and indeed, e-cigarettes are not subject to the city's smoking ban. )

Kansas law does prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to people under 18-years old, which Tran said he completely agrees with.

E-cigarettes have been in the Lawrence market for awhile now, but Tran said many times the product is sold alongside traditional cigarettes. Tran said he wanted to open a store that sold only the e-cigarettes because he believes smokers become too tempted when they enter a tobacco store.

"My goal is to help people quit smoking," Tran said. "I'm against tobacco 100 percent. It really is killing people."

The store is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

In other news and notes from around town:

• When I'm smoking, it usually is the result of me touching a wrong wire as part of a home improvement project. And when it comes to home improvement projects, everybody seemingly wants to know the latest on Menards' plans to build a store in Lawrence.

In short, the project is still moving along, but is likely still a few months from pulling a building permit. Menards has filed its site plan application to build the previously-approved store on the site of the former Gaslight Mobile Home Park, just east of the Home Depot at 31st and Iowa streets.

As we've previously reported, the store has won its necessary zoning approvals from the Lawrence City Commission. Now the project is going through the administrative review that takes place at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department.

From what I have heard, Menards officials are looking at tweaking some parts of the plan related to how traffic accesses the site. Now that Mendards has reached a deal to acquire the Snodgrass property immediately east of the mobile home park, the site has two main roads to serve the property — Ousdahl to the west and a new street on the eastern edge that will be named Michigan. The purchase of the Snodgrass property will allow for the construction of Michigan Street north of 31st Street.

The Planning Department has to review all those access issues before it can approve a site plan. I've also been told Menards officials are considering rearranging some of the other retail lots that are part of the project. The preliminary plans call for six other retail stores or restaurants to locate around the Menards store. There has been talk that Menards may seek to rearrange how the lot lines are drawn to convert an approximately one-acre pad site into about a five-acre pad site, which would allow the project to accommodate a secondary anchor tenant. No word yet on whether Menards is in discussion with possible tenants.

The bottom line is that the project must still get a preliminary plat, a final plat and a site plan approved before it can pull a building permit to start construction on the approximately 175,000-square-foot store. All those approvals are largely technical in nature and are not the types that typically derail a project. But they still may take a couple of months to get through the approval process, folks at City Hall tell me.

I talked to Menards' project manager for the location when he was in town last week, and he said that once a building permit is issued, it likely will take nine to 10 months to build the store.

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  • Comments

    Brett McCabe 1 year, 1 month ago

    What I've never understood, when it comes to site plans for big box stores, is the placement of a roadway directly in front of the store (picture Target, Wal Mart or Home Depot). When 100% of the customers entering and exiting a store are on foot, why is the first thing that they have to do is to effectively cross a street in order to get to the parking? Why do we encourage traffic to drive directly into the path of these pedestrians?

    Why don't these lots look more like downtown? Place a row of saw-tooth parking in front of the store, a one-way roadway behind it with saw-tooth parking on the other side? Make the roadway a single lane and as narrow as possible and....all of a sudden...you have a pedestrian friendly, customer friendly anti-road-rage parking area with slow-moving traffic.

    Most store lots are 80% empty most of the time, this new configuration means that you allow your everyday customers to have front-row, non-vehicle-impeded parking on most days of the year.

    And finally, use rotaries at all of the junctions coming in and out of the lot. Eliminate the left-turns and the traffic will move around this site far better than all of the lots that we have in town now.

    Joshua Montgomery 1 year, 1 month ago

    Kevin,

    They do this for the same reason that opening a coffee shop near a Starbucks can be a savvy move. By co-locating they actually increase the size of the local market for their product. Here is a nice Slate piece about this effect: ( http://goo.gl/4CmxNb )

    Kevin Kohls 1 year, 1 month ago

    I don't understand why Menards wants to build next door to Home Depot. They are essentially the same store. Why be next door? I can't believe Depot is happy about that.

    Brian Hall 1 year, 1 month ago

    Couldn't Missouri Street from the Indian Hills neighborhood be extended south to 31st? There isn't even a Michigan Street south of 10th Street since it was renamed Naismith. Missouri already looks like it was expected to be extended before the Naismith Bike Trail was attached to it.

    Also, does this mean the extension of Louisiana Street being moved to the west for the SLT will be Michigan Street, not Louisiana? It would make more sense.

    Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 1 month ago

    That is what it means. The relocated Louisiana Street will have the name of Michigan Street. Thanks, Chad

    DwardF 1 year, 1 month ago

    There is a growing number of employers (especially in the health care field) who will not hire smokers and require a negative nicotine test as a condition of employment. Will e-smoking create a grey area since e-cigarettes still deliver nicotine? Do e-cigarettes make smokers lungs as grey as real cigarettes? I can still vividly remember the first time I saw a pair of grey lungs pulled from a smoker.

    I've never been a smoker, but I support Mr Tran's cause, promoting what is hopefully a better alternative.

    Jack Tran 1 year, 1 month ago

    Hello yes i understand your concerns and I'm always here to answer them.. Terry Lee: E-cigarette aren't perfect I know there are still traces of bad in them BUT there are far less harmful from the traditional cigarette. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAEjWfeIcVw Hopefully this could explain to you a little more about E-cigarettes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMYLTcNNQEI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2VdIFyEShI Dward Farkwarth: For those people who can't have nicotine in there system. The E-juice doesn't have to contain nicotine. You could have the E-juice with just flavor. This product is for smokers who want to try to quit smoking and gradually decrees the level of nicotine until you stop. Over all this product have a high change of quitting cigarettes with less medical effects than a tobacco cigarette. Like i said this product isn't for people who want to start smoking. It is for people who are trying to save money while smoking or people who are trying to quit. I know smoking in general isn't good for you but e-cigarettes doesn't have as much harmful chemical in them. Ingredients in E-juices are found in our everyday foods we buy in stores. All of our E-juices and other ingredients are made in the US. We list all the ingredients on our labels. Thank you for your comments.

    Jack Tran 1 year, 1 month ago

    Again YOU MUST BE 18+ TO BUY OR TRY NO EXCEPTIONS!

    Jack Tran 1 year, 1 month ago

    This was actually published on august 12 2013 One of the most recent studies http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gwx_g...

    Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

    Menard's is expecting Home Depot to shut their doors. The housing market is not all that improved despite some sales.

    So I read the USA should expect another major economic downturn before 2016. Lending money is on the risky side once again due mostly to lip service on regulating the industry.

    Ben Bernanke - economy still shaky http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=186082407

    Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

    The big question: Are we at risk of another banking crisis? I say yes since the days of the Reagan/Bush home loan debacle.

    More from an expert. Oh, yes. Definitely. We continue to have a system that's way more prone to crisis than it needs to be.

    Banks continue to be much too highly indebted and interconnected. That means they all tend to get in trouble at the same time, and the failure of one can take down others. It creates a contagion that spreads through the economy.

    -- What do you think, realistically, can actually get done to improve the banking system? A bipartisan partnership, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), is pushing a proposal similar to mine: It would require 15% equity for the six largest U.S. banks. This is a sensible, cost-effective measure that would correct enormous distortions. The politics of it are very daunting, and there will be a lot of lobbying. The battle has not seriously begun.

    -- Would it help to make banks keep more money in their vaults? I'm talking about how banks get their money, whether it's through borrowing or other means. What you're talking about are reserve requirements, which limit how banks can use their money. Unless reserve requirements are very high, they don't reduce banks' fragility. Let's say a bank has $100 in assets, and $10 of that is sitting in the form of cash reserves, earning little or no interest. If the bank invests the other $90 in risky derivatives and loses $20, the bank may not be able to pay its creditors, and will go underwater. Having that $10 on hand won't keep it solvent.

    -- How is your proposal different from the Dodd-Frank reforms that, for example, give the FDIC the right to take over institutions if their troubles threaten the financial system, as Lehman Brothers did?

    Dodd-Frank gave regulators much greater authority. Unfortunately, it was regulators who allowed risks to grow before the crisis, and they still are not protecting us. The Federal Reserve, for example, lets banks pay dividends based on flawed stress tests.

    The investigation of J.P. Morgan Chase's $6 billion derivative loss in 2012 reveals poor risk controls. And Attorney General Eric Holder has said some banks are still too big to prosecute. These are clear indications that something is really wrong.

    [url]http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/01/news/economy/banking-crisis.moneymag/[/url]

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