Heads Above The Competition
Mary Jane'z updates the traditional smoke shop, serving as a gathering spot for MoCo's arts-and-crafts community.
Thursday, March 29, 2001
However, with a delicate balance of karma and positive openness, Mary Jane''z has managed to break through the county''s conservative nature with a liberal dose of free expression. It rekindles memories of Cannery Row''s fabled Mont Grove, the artist mart and paraphernalia mall that closed in the mid-''70s.
Open for almost a year, the store serves a wide clientele seeking unique knick-knacks. While its roster of customers does skew towards a twentysomething demographic, it is not unusual for middle-aged doctors, lawyers or teachers to drop in looking for that special hand-blown glass pipe or must-have angel lamp, not to mention a wide variety of interesting little gadgets, such as cases designed to carry tobacco-like products. One favorite is a fully functioning highlighter that doubles as an incognito substance container.
Family-created, -owned and -operated, Mary Jane''z is a contemporary version of the 1960s smoke shop at heart. But, according to Sal Lombardo, 22-year-old proprietor and creative director of the store, "We wanted to step out of the mold of a typical smoke shop. We are a different breed."
Mary Jane''z began with a vision of "bringing Santa Cruz to Monterey," says Lombardo. "We wanted to create a fun, hip place where people can come in, listen to good music, and pick up items that they can''t usually find in this town." Although Sal Lombardo is the mastermind behind the entire operation, he credits his father for single-handedly transforming a vacant warehouse into the eye-catching, bamboo-covered emporium it is today. His mother handles the marketing, and his brother and cousin manage the shop, while Sal takes care of the blooming wholesale business.
Aside from the store, which sells exotica ranging from posters to elaborate Buddha water statues, the business also has sprouted a wholesale division, Mary Jane''z Glass, which manufactures a full-range of glass products--from inexpensive pieces to intricate designs--and ships them daily to stores and distributors all over the United States.
When asked what put a little glass company from Monterey on the wholesale map, Sal Lombardo says, "Affordable prices, high standards, good quality, innovative designs, and a creative product--that''s what makes us stand out from the rest." But the heart of the Mary Jane''z business is its Lighthouse store, which initially catches a passer-by''s attention with intriguing window signs advertising the array of goodies available inside.
Class and Glass Act
Upon entering the store, customers are greeted with a colorful arrangement of hats, frames, sunglasses, lunch boxes, boas, wigs and various quirky offerings. The front of the store showcases an eclectic combination of items that can be used to decorate the home or the body. Also displayed is an interesting selection of furry backpacks (think pink pig or monkey holding an unwrapped banana) from which to choose.
The back of the store houses the impressive assortment of tobaccoesque product accessories. Nestled among the shelves are inexpensive glass and metal pieces, as well as extremely pricey pieces and the always-popular glow-in-the-dark smoking pipe, which also can serve as a night-light.
Starting Sunday, Mary Jane''z will expand its horizons to include a glassblowing school. Anyone interested in learning the art of glassblowing can do so at one of the six classes, which range from beginning to advanced. The ground floor class is "Glass Bead Making," wherein students learn to make necklaces, bracelets and other small items. For the more advanced glass blower, "Inside Out" provides an introductory course on inside coloring which makes the glass stronger and gives it an illuminating dimension not achieved by coloring the outside alone.
All classes last two days and tuition includes a continental breakfast, most supplies and personalized training (there will be one instructor for two students). The best part of all is that budding glass artists can take home whatever they make.
The store, which celebrates its one-year anniversary in April, serves as a friendly gathering place where locals socialize at special events, which can feature deejays, or where people can bring in their drums for jam session drum circles.
Lombardo says part of his store mission is to inspire people to learn the glassblowing trade and join the Mary Jane''z team. He also points out that locals are encouraged to bring in their products to sell at the store. "It''s important for us to have a local-based company," he says. "Area artists make about 60 percent of our products--from the pouches to the hemp necklaces, and, of course, the pipes. We want the store to be a venue for Monterey County work."