Popular shop moves ahead in Dinkytown

It’s legal here – if you use the right words.Each day customers scour the inventory at Hideaway, a Dinkytown head shop, searching for their preferred tool to get high.

by Bryce Haugen

It’s legal here – if you use the right words.

Each day customers scour the inventory at Hideaway, a Dinkytown head shop, searching for their preferred tool to get high.

But as far as the folks at the nine-month-old store are concerned, their products are used to smoke tobacco. Saying the word bong is a no-no. It’s water pipe. And customers who mention marijuana are booted out.

“We’ve kicked out plenty of people,” said Becca Chase, a sex therapy sophomore and store employee.

In just a few months, Hideaway has become one of the most popular and profitable head shops in the state, said owner Wally Sakallah, 32.

Customers from throughout the region are drawn to the store’s low prices and selection, he said.

“There’s no other head shop that has this variety,” he said.

The shelves and display cases at Hideaway are filled with every smoking device imaginable – bongs, chillums, glass bowls, hookahs, bubblers, bat boxes and more. The store, which stays open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, also sells many other items, including Egyptian jewelry, incense, salvia and posters.

A multicolored poster in the corner quotes the Beatles: “I get high with a little help from my friends.” On the counter below, there is a small note reminding customers that pieces are for tobacco use only.

Pipe options abound

Besides Hideaway, the Dinkytown and Southeast Como neighborhoods offer several other options for pipe shoppers.

Dinkytown Business Association President Skott Johnson said area businesses began offering pipes within the past five years. He said the association isn’t involved in the decision to let these stores in.

“It’s a free market society,” said Johnson, the owner of Autographics who has worked in the area since 1977.

The Royal Cigar and Tobacco Shop has sold pieces since it opened three years ago, said Zizo Ersayed, the store’s owner. Both he and Sakallah said hookahs have been the hottest items recently.

Ersayed said the market is too saturated, with Hideaway and Know Name Records presenting fierce competition.

“It used to be a good business, but now it’s not,” he said.

A few blocks north in the Southeast Como neighborhood, there are two businesses that sell pipes: Totally High Creations and Wally’s Corner Market, which Sakallah bought six years ago.

Sakallah said he was inspired to open Hideaway when the Totally High Creations customers crossed the street to buy “munchies and cigarettes” at Wally’s.

“Whatever the market wants, I will bring to them,” Sakallah said. “And I realized there is a demand in the market for water pipes and pipes.”

Direct competition means lower prices

Recreational park and leisure studies sophomore Jeff Baidoo, said he goes to Hideaway because of its “good location, good prices and good people.”

Jimmy Otto, one of the glassblowers who supplies Hideaway, said the competition doesn’t mean better quality. He said many pieces are mass-produced and are of questionable quality.

“If somebody wants a nice piece, they’re going to have to know somebody who makes it,” said Otto, who helped found Clown Glass in Uptown.

Marijuana use stable, pipes more popular

Alhough in some parts of the country, such as Minneapolis, head shops are booming, nationwide marijuana use isn’t, said Kris Krane, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws associate director.

And there’s been no uptick in drug crime at the University since Hideaway opened, said Deputy University Police Chief Steve Johnson.

Megan Roering, a local resident who helped her friend pick out a chillum Monday night, said that nowadays more people are buying their own pieces instead of borrowing from their friends.

Krane said head shops are finally cashing in on a market that has existed for a while.

Many magazines and Web sites have also started pursuing the glass pipe market, but they do so at great risk, said Robert Vaughn, a Nashville lawyer who is considered an expert in drug paraphernalia.

Paraphernalia laws vary in each state and locality. The whole country, however, must adhere to a strict federal law, which prohibits stores from selling items if it is reasonable to assume the item will be used for drugs.

Vaughn, who publishes a monthly newsletter about drug law, said federal agents occasionally crack down, but “you can’t get everybody.”

Sakallah, who said he doesn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, said he runs a legitimate business.

“I’ve never had any violation; I’ve had a clear record, and I’m very strict about this business,” he said.

Reshaping the store

Not everyone in the community appreciates the head shops’ presence.

“It’s certainly not beefing up our reputation,” Skott Johnson said.

James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said “people are certainly concerned about it.”

Sakallah said the association recently forced him to close Wally’s Corner Market two hours earlier each evening because of the pipes sold in the store.

De Sota said pipes weren’t the “deciding factor.” Rather, the association was finally enforcing existing neighborhood policy.

Sakallah said he’s sick of the head shop business, and is going to abandon it.

By January, Sakallah said, he plans to revamp Hideaway into a jewelry and gift store.

The business is too risky, he said, and expanding too fast. Sakallah said that even in Blaine, his hometown, he hears people talking about Hideaway.

“It’s getting too much,” he said. “That’s what I don’t like.”