While the owners of Glass Geeks didn't plan on selling pipes reaching thousands of dollars apiece, they happily discovered the market would richly reward the craftsmanship in Tucson. But the geeky and pop culture themes, with pieces influenced by video games and science fiction, were planned from the beginning.
Glass Geeks, a local shop specializing in high-quality and highly nerdy pipes and bongs, is opening its second location on April 20. While they've made a niche market selling unique and expensive products, they sell simpler products, and have also built a space to view local artworks.
Ryan Garcia founded Glass Geeks in 2017 with the help of a few business partners. Both Garcia and his colleagues are fans of geeky things, with Garcia even sporting Star Wars and Dr. Who tattoos. From the beginning, the store's theme was set, but it was up to local glass blowers to design the products.
"Tucson was already kind of known for the glass scene," Garcia said. "And when we started, we realized just how many talented artists are from the desert. Not only just a store, we thought it would be a good place for artists to showcase their work."
Glass Geeks sells a wide variety of both locally and internationally made glass products, ranging from a few dollars to tens of thousands. Tucson artists featured at the store include Brian Jacobson, Greg Wilson, Zombie Hand Studios and more.
"We're trying to emphasize high-quality American glass, or 'heady' glass," Garcia said. "These heady pieces are generally one-of-a-kind, and generally handmade. Some of them can take several weeks to even a month just to make a single piece. There's some really amazing work coming out of the desert."
Pop culture-themed pieces in the store draw their influences from science fiction, superheroes, fantasy, mythology and more. Band and movie poster line the walls of the shop. An arcade cabinet sits in the corner. Psychedelic rock plays over the loudspeakers. One display cabinet is affectionately named the "Dragon's Den," and features a wide variety of intricate, fantastical creatures.
"We're both geeks," Garcia said. "But the 'geek' term is also about how we're nerdy on the types of glass. We want people to properly understand the glass, how to clean the glass, and also understand the artists and their work."
Despite drawing influence from Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland and Marvel Comics, the smoking pieces are no cheap draw for nostalgia. Many of the pipes and bongs contain multiple chambers, moveable pieces, black light dyes and expertly crafted details. According to Glass Geeks, the most expensive single piece sold in their store went for $125,000.
"We don't consider ourselves a traditional smoke shop," Garcia said. "We don't sell tobacco, vape pods or paraphernalia for other drugs."
In opening a second location, Glass Geeks decided to fully embrace the artistry of their wares, nicknaming their new store "The Gallery." The open space design of the new location allows for public demonstrations of glass blowing, something Garcia hopes to be continually occurring. With kilns and benches available for rent, the new Glass Geeks location already has a schedule planned for local artists to do live workshops.
"The new space is exactly what we want," Garcia said. "What we're building is pretty unique. The scope of what we're doing isn't really being done elsewhere. It's taken a large amount of effort, and no insubstantial amount of money. But we can do what we want in it, and we can realize our vision."
In fitting with the gallery theme, Glass Geeks' new location is housed on Speedway where Christine's Antiques and Collectibles previous sat. The space has since been completely renovated and now features alcoves for exhibiting high-quality pieces.
Glass Geeks are hosting a soft opening for their second location on April 20, featuring a showcase of local artists, live glass blowing demonstrations, music, food and more. They are also moving into the CBD industry, while still providing a space for the rapidly expanding artistry in the pipe market.
"It's amazing to see where this market and industry has grown just in the last five years," Garcia said. "It's leaps and bounds ahead of where it was before."
The Glass Geeks soft opening is on Saturday, April 20. 4940 E. Speedway Blvd. For more information, visit glassgeeks.net