There’s more to Mary Jane’z new owners than smoke and mirrors.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Ask local entrepreneur Julian Diallo how he is doing and he’ll often answer, “Very blessed!” Ask, “Where are you from?” and he might answer, “From Heaven.” Say goodbye and he’ll bless you as you depart. He also solicits blessings, giving someone a marker to sign their name – and a message of wisdom – on his “Wisdom Couch.”
These are not the only blessings that are going around Twisted Roots on Alvarado Street in Monterey, a clothing, novelty, body jewelry, pipe and music shop with a Rastafarian theme owned by Julian and his younger brother Modou (pronounced Moo-doo) Diallo. For a few weeks this fall, they would sit on the Wisdom Couch and talk about how great it would be to buy crosstown headshop Mary Jane’z.
Then Julian got a message.
“I got a voicemail from the owner,” he says. “She said she was selling. It was crazy. When stuff is meant to be, it just happens. It was a gift from God.”
Just getting here represents a blessing for the Senegal natives – few people who grow up in West Africa have a chance to move to California, let alone start a business. But their mom, a successful international merchant, was able to send them here to study at MPC before they worked various jobs, earned green cards and ultimately invested in the Twisted storefront. With the new acquisition, Modou manages Mary Jane’z and Julian holds the fort down at Twisted Roots.
If one is blessed enough to afford a Hurricane water pipe, Mary Jane’z is now the only certified dealer in the area. The $650 Austrian-made apparatus is blown with a stress-free glass that makes it resistant to breaking and chipping – YouTube videos show stoners kicking and throwing the Hurricane on the floor without it shattering. That durability, plus an ash catcher and curves that create a swirling vortex of smoke that gives the water pipe its name, inspire one online reviewer to call it “the Ferrari of bongs.”
Mary Jane’z carries products that hail from closer to home at more down-to-earth prices – hand-blown pipes, bubblers and bongs made by Santa Cruz glassblowers and other artists who travel to traffic their wares. Back in headier days, the shop employed a dedicated glassblower, something the brothers hope to reinstate.
But inventory isn’t where the Diallos hope to differentiate themselves. They seek a reputation for service – not exactly a hallmark at most head shops.
“I like to empower people to know what they’re buying,” Modou says.
An older person with health problems and a medical marijuana card might be nudged toward the least toxic way to smoke. (Modou recommends a vaporizer.) Someone seeking the best rolling papers gets a breakdown of the pros and cons of transparent cellulose papers, organic hemp papers or papers made from rice.
“It’s all about helping and giving a good experience,” he adds.
A modest little hooka lounge represents another avenue to nice experiences. People can bring in devices to smoke and share, but only if what they are smoking is legal (read: keep the weed at home). He’s adding a wireless Internet connection and a TV; they’re even investigating how to host local musicians.
“The hospitality is what makes [Mary Jane’z] unique,” Julian says.
The recent defeat of Prop. 19, which would have allowed people to smoke, buy, possess and grow marijuana, brought a sigh of relief from Julian, who couldn’t decipher whether it was a good thing or not. After this October, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed State Bill 1449 into law, effectively decriminalizing the possession (of up to an ounce of marijuana) and smoking in public, Julian thought Prop. 19 seemed like a step back.
“It was a hard thing to know what to think about [Prop. 19],” he says. “There were no guarantees, and corporations could have pushed the little guy out.”
Meanwhile, Julian says he has not felt the effects of the economic downturn at Twisted Roots.
“When times are tough, people smoke more,” he says.
That has helped both outposts expand their product line; Modou is currently waiting on orders from glass companies like Skyglass and Pure, as well as more locally blown pieces.
Steady sales certainly helps them put on a happy face, but their enthusiasm for the opportunity is genuine – with these guys, the chance to run two small businesses is a real blessing.
“It’s great to sell, but the journey we’re going through is more important,” Julian says. “We get to meet, share, love and grow. For me, Mary Jane’z is one piece of the journey.”