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ECC is known throughout the vape world for throwing the biggest vape expo in Southern California every summer - last year’s ECC Pomona (see our recap of that event here) attendance was estimated at 75,000. ECC has also been putting on a series of regional shows called VPX the Vapers Exhibit - first in Niagra Falls then last fall in New Orleans (which we also exhibited at) This time around - ECC chose the motor city and we sure are glad they did - what an amazing place, vape scene and a great location in the midwest that brought vape shop owners/managers from Chicago, Ohio, Western PA and even some from New York and further.
Detroit is a city that is known for the auto industry, birthplace of techno as well as for it’s urban blight - almost declaring bankruptcy in 2014. When most people think of Detroit, many recall the film 8 Mile staring Eminem, which was actually a pretty dope film. What they don’t picture is a city that is in the midst of a rebirth - transitioning from a rust belt manufacturing center to a more modern urban city with tech companies (Quicken Loans being the biggest), hipsters on bicycles, great craft beer and a urban lofts for a fraction of what people pay in Brooklyn.
Downtown Detroit by night
Signs of Detroit's decay still abound
VPX Detroit was held March 4 - 6th. Cafe Racer’s plan was to parachute a few days before the show to check out the shops in the area. Flying in from warm and sunny southern California was a bit of a climate shock - landing in a snow storm and 24’ temperatures (- 4 Celsius). The weather only got worse on day 1 - with a major storm swinging through the area dropping 4” of snow - making driving unmanageable for this fair weather Cali dude.
When the weather broke on Wednesday, I was able to hit about 12 shops over the course of the day. Starting out in mega college town of Ann Arbor and working my way closer to the center worked out great. I even had a chance to stop at Cafe Racer Vintage Motorcyle Shop - a custom motorbike shop that we had contacted to sort out a bike to use at our booth at the show. John and Malisa, the owners, were super friendly and were also really interested in quitting smoking and starting to vape - which was a double plus - as this is always one of our primary missions to convert smokers into vapers and leave behind a legacy that will help transform people's lives.
The reception by the local vape shops to our award winning line of artfully crafed e-liquid was amazing. Highlights of the day included dropping into one of Cafe Racer’s existing accounts - Detroit Vapor and finally meeting the team there and then the last stop of the day - Metro Vapor Plus closer to downtown.
JD from Metro Vapor Plus
Metro Vapor Plus is a thriving shop. The place was packed with regulars when I stepped through the door - but the store manager and team were super friendly and when I pulled out some Cafe Racer samples they jumped at the chance to try them.
VPX Detroit was held in the mega center knows as Cobo Center. This is the same building that hosts the world famous North American International Auto Show - and it’s massive. There were approx 45 companies exhibiting - surprisingly most were based in Michigan with many of the big California based companies opting instead to do a show in Poland or opting out completely. Their loss was our gain as the show delivered a fantastic attendance for both the B2B and a terrific number of vape enthusiasts for the general admission.
The Cafe Racer team was busy from the opening bell with the tasting bar bangin’ non-stop. We picked up some fantastic local craft beer from Founders Brewing Company to do pairings at the booth with Lucky 13 and Lucky Bastard. One of Founder's flavors was even called Dirty Bastard - which was an amazing dark ruby in color and brewed with seven varieties of imported malts with hints of smoke and peat, paired with a malty richness and a right hook of hop power to give it the bad attitude that a beer named Dirty Bastard has to live up to. With an ABV of 8.5% - this was one to sip slowly but paired amazingly well with Lucky 13 and Lucky Bastard.
We made a ton of new friends at VPX and were able to sign up some new accounts on the spot - ranging local shops like Metro Vapor Plus, Hometown Vapor and others to Flavr Vapor Lounge from Lancaster, PA and Time 2 Vape from Queens, New York and even a great shop back in SoCal called Vapor Zone.
E-liquid flavor tastes tend to be regional and Detroit definitely welcomed our line with open arms - especially the tobacco based Lucky brothers as well as Peach Guzzi and Yogurt Bomb. I look forward to returning to Detroit - hopefully ECC will choose to do another VPX here next year.