Eldon “Big E” Simmons, Dixie Zellner and Sherri Hischke had a simple plan when they opened Big E’s Vapor Shop in 2013.
“We opened with $9,000 cash,” Simmons says of the store at 946 S. Rock Road.
“The dream was for that one store to be successful.”
Now, the partners are getting ready to open their fifth store.
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“This thing has completely blown all our dreams away,” Simmons says. “We would have been happy with one productive, successful store, but vaping took off, and to this point, the government hasn’t mingled in it too much, although that’s coming.”
The new store will open around March 1 in 1,600 square feet on 21st Street west of Amidon, just west of Kansasland Tire.
Simmons says the stores are now in the four main corners of the city. Next, he says, he wants to string stores across the central part of the city, such as along Central east of I-235.
The partners put clauses in their leases that will let them vacate their spaces if laws change that negatively affect the businesses.
“Hey, if the government regulates us out of business, we need a way out,” Simmons says.
Big E’s was one of the early vape shops to open in Wichita. There are about 40 now, Simmons says.
“Few of them have gone out of business,” he says. “That’s pretty rare.”
Big E’s has more than 45 employees.
“It’s a $3 million-a-year business now,” Simmons says.
“What’s premier about us, we mix all of our own juices.”
There are more than 500 flavors. The most popular ones are the fruity juices and the ones that are the flavors of popular breakfast cereals.
“We have the credibility now,” Simmons says. “We have the financials.”
He says he and his partners are mostly paying as they go when they open new stores instead of borrowing much money.
“I would love to go to Kansas City and take our business model there,” Simmons says.
He says he and his partners want to open four or five stores there simultaneously.
When that happens – if it happens – “depends on regulation and what we can pay for as we go.”
“We are afraid to borrow more,” Simmons says. “I don’t want to get caught holding the bag.”