Retailer opens 7 locations in 7 months

A tasting wall lets customers try flavors using disposable mouthpieces. (Photos by Michael Thompson)

A tasting wall lets customers try flavors using disposable mouthpieces. (Photos by Michael Thompson)

Trying to keep pace with a hot retail trend, a Richmond-based startup is spreading like wildfire.

Five new locations of Avail Vapor, a locally based brand of electronic cigarette retail shops, have opened in the past two months across Virginia. Stores are now up and running in Short Pump, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg and Blacksburg. And the company finalized a lease Jan. 16 for a shop in Chesterfield.

That brings the company’s store count to seven, and it’s not stopping there. Avail Vapor president and major shareholder James Xu said the company has plans to roll out 18 more locations in the next six months across the Mid-Atlantic.

The Avail Vapor at at 11440 W. Broad St. in Glen Allen.

The Avail Vapor at at 11440 W. Broad St.

“Every single store is doing very well,” Xu said. “That’s why we have such an aggressive expansion plan for new stores.”

Fueling its growth is the burgeoning popularity of electronic cigarettes, devices that vaporize nicotine-laced liquid for users to inhale and produce a vapor rather than smoke.

Avail Vapor sells e-cigs in both retail and wholesale capacities and manufactures the liquid – often called juice – used in electronic cigarettes in Richmond.

Xu, along with co-owners Donovan Phillips and Cole Smith, opened the first Avail shop in Carytown in July 2013.

Xu would not say how much Avail did in sales in 2013. He did say it takes at least $100,000 to open an Avail shop but that the cost of launching depends on the location.

Avail has grown to 32 employees, including those inside the shops and inside its lab. The company has six patents pending for e-cig hardware and juice.

“We’re taking it from a novelty product to a mainstream, marketable item,” Phillips said.

At Avail, a disposable e-cig can cost as little as $2, and a starter kit costs $18. Tommy Morrison, general manager of Avail in Short Pump, said that the company’s biggest demographic is women over 50 and that online sales account for 40 to 60 percent of the company’s total sales.

A slew of other e-cig shops have cropped up across Richmond, but Avail has been the most aggressive among the local brands.

Inside the Short Pump location.

Inside the Short Pump location.

A tasting wall lets customers try flavors using disposable mouthpieces. (Photos by Michael Thompson)

A tasting wall lets customers try flavors using disposable mouthpieces. (Photos by Michael Thompson)

Trying to keep pace with a hot retail trend, a Richmond-based startup is spreading like wildfire.

Five new locations of Avail Vapor, a locally based brand of electronic cigarette retail shops, have opened in the past two months across Virginia. Stores are now up and running in Short Pump, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg and Blacksburg. And the company finalized a lease Jan. 16 for a shop in Chesterfield.

That brings the company’s store count to seven, and it’s not stopping there. Avail Vapor president and major shareholder James Xu said the company has plans to roll out 18 more locations in the next six months across the Mid-Atlantic.

The Avail Vapor at at 11440 W. Broad St. in Glen Allen.

The Avail Vapor at at 11440 W. Broad St.

“Every single store is doing very well,” Xu said. “That’s why we have such an aggressive expansion plan for new stores.”

Fueling its growth is the burgeoning popularity of electronic cigarettes, devices that vaporize nicotine-laced liquid for users to inhale and produce a vapor rather than smoke.

Avail Vapor sells e-cigs in both retail and wholesale capacities and manufactures the liquid – often called juice – used in electronic cigarettes in Richmond.

Xu, along with co-owners Donovan Phillips and Cole Smith, opened the first Avail shop in Carytown in July 2013.

Xu would not say how much Avail did in sales in 2013. He did say it takes at least $100,000 to open an Avail shop but that the cost of launching depends on the location.

Avail has grown to 32 employees, including those inside the shops and inside its lab. The company has six patents pending for e-cig hardware and juice.

“We’re taking it from a novelty product to a mainstream, marketable item,” Phillips said.

At Avail, a disposable e-cig can cost as little as $2, and a starter kit costs $18. Tommy Morrison, general manager of Avail in Short Pump, said that the company’s biggest demographic is women over 50 and that online sales account for 40 to 60 percent of the company’s total sales.

A slew of other e-cig shops have cropped up across Richmond, but Avail has been the most aggressive among the local brands.

Inside the Short Pump location.

Inside the Short Pump location.

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