With Smoke Shops on virtually every corner of South Street, the competition is fierce. Business is always tight with managers aimlessly searching for new selling techniques and rare glass imports, while keeping a close eye on their counterparts. Nothing is different at the Philly based Matchbox headshop, except for the exclusive advantages only their store can offer.
Since the city of Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana back in 2014, the smoke shops on South Street have opened up to selling a wide variety of products, but maybe surprisingly, business has stayed on par.
“Well, maybe we’re doing a little better thanks to Maverick,” jokes Tony DeBlazio, the Matchbox store manager.
Based in Los Angeles, Maverick Glass has made a name for themselves by capturing both style and performance. Using 100 percent American glass, Maverick specializes in high-end water pipes, dab rigs and bongs all with impeccable functionality and a taste of Southern California class. Customers often love their pieces because they take a twist on the traditional fat can style, and usually employ a variety of percolators. Fortunately for Matchbox, they’re the only headshop on the street that offers the valuable glass.
“People love that we’re the only store that offer Maverick pieces,” said DeBlazio. “They’re certainly more on the expensive side but it’s a quality product that always catches the buyer’s eyes with their clean look.”
DeBlazio, 24, and a recent graduate from Drexel University wasn’t manager when the deal to allow Maverick Glass into the store was made but he recalls being heavily informed and educated on specific ways to sell the product due to its usually high cost.
“It sort of sells itself though,” said DeBlazio. “It’s known around the country as some of the finest glass you can find so when customers come in looking for a Maverick product, they’ve almost always done their homework and know exactly what it is they’re looking to buy.”
In addition to now having Maverick Glass products throughout the store, Matchbox also has products produced by individual professional glassblowers, some local and some national, that offer Matchbox the advantage to display and hopefully sell their products.
Snic Barnes and T.K Happa are a few of the handful of professional glassblowers the Matchbox store has made arrangements with to get their products on its shelves.
“Snic has been in the store a number of times and being from Philly, he loves this city and I think he expresses that in a lot of his work,” said DeBlazio.
Snic Barnes first developed a passion for glassblowing at the Crefeld school in Philadelphia during the late 90s. In his early 20’s, Snic went out on his own, moving around the country, setting up studios where he’d work and then pitch his product to the higher-ups. Now, he’s extremely well known in the world of glassblowing for being one of the best in the field.
DeBlazio even claimed to be getting lessons from Snic every time he’s back in the area, as he hopes to develop his glassblowing skills while he continues to work at the smoke shop.
T.K Happa, on the other hand, isn’t from the area. He’s actually from Japan and has been rumored to be moving to the U.S. “soon” for nearly three years now. He’s most famous for his “Sake bottle bongs” that have made him famous here in the states.
DeBlazio expressed that these were just two of many professional glassblowers that were featured in the store, but probably two of the most unique.
“When you have a few buddies that blow glass from the area and have made a really nice living off their work, it gives our store quite an advantage,” said DeBlazio.
Yes, anyone can claim to a glassblower and be decent at the craft but it certainly isn’t easy to make the high-end, top of the line quality, pieces that professionals like Snic and T.K offer Matchbox. Almost all the specialty solo pieces are priced competitively at over $300, while many exceed $1,000. Similarly, many of the Maverick Glass products are valued at over $500 while some pass the $1,000 mark.
Since the decriminalization of marijuana in Philadelphia, business on South Street for smoke shops like Matchbox has remained the same for the most part but it is certainly a more vibrant scene and an intriguing business market to many as the field continues to grow by the second throughout the country.
“There’s a ton of big money being thrown around at the top and honestly, I don’t really know if there’s a negative route you can take, because marijuana is going to be legal everywhere soon,” said DeBlazio. “There’s too big of a market for it not to be.”