BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Glancing at the menu at Kure, you might think you were in a dessert-centric restaurant.
Where else would you find NY Cheesecake, Kandy Kane and Cherries Gone Wild?
But Kure is offering a different kind of indulgence: It’s a vaporium and lounge, giving smokers and those just looking for a relaxing, social experience a place to converge.
Part of a company that’s centered primarily in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, the first northern franchise outpost is owned by Gina and Patrick Beranek of Weston.
The pair — who are neither smokers nor vapers — first learned of the business opportunity through a friend, who is the corporation’s chair.
Traveling to the headquarters in Charlotte, Gina Beranek said she decided to sign on, in part, because of the diversity of the clientele. Customers range from 18-year-olds — the shop cards to keep out the underaged — to ex-smokers in their 80s looking for a healthier alternative.
“I got convinced mostly by the people,” said Beranek, who opened the Black Rock shop in November.
Kure is housed in the former Tokyo Health Spa, which has been vacant for a few years. It boasts a sleek design of exposed brick and spare countertops.
General Manager Tasha Rocheleau stands behind the “bar,” providing customers with both straight “juice” flavors and custom blends catering to each vaper's unique tastes.
Customers can choose from 64 base flavors and a range of nicotine levels, most of which are lower than levels found in conventional cigarettes. Some contain no nicotine.
Juices such as Toucan Tango and Cerealously might attract breakfast fans, while menthol and tobacco flavors mimic the tastes a smoker might crave.
Since the FDA considers vaping akin to using tobacco, both Beranek and Rocheleau are quick to note they don’t promote it as a cessation tool. But they have seen customers lessen their nicotine intake by “stepping down” while vaping.
A Wall of Quitters in the rear of the shop — a board customers have signed to show how long they’ve been smoke free — is particularly heartening to Beranek who lost her father and grandfather, both smokers, to cancer.
A master gardener by trade, Beranek said she’s glad the shop is a franchise and she can look to the company’s expertise for guidance. While there are few studies on the effects of vaping and it remains controversial, she said her customers — 90 percent of whom are or were smokers — find it a positive alternative.
“There is still that reaction people have,” she said, adding she hopes her customers show good manners in using her products. “It’s definitely something you need to be respectful of.”
Kure is at 2925 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. For more information, visit www.KureSociety.com .
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