As a college student, it can be a struggle to find the right career path, but sometimes an opportunity comes along, and taking the risk is worth the reward.
James Funk, owner of Grandma Slackers Fun Pets, is an ambitious store owner who saw potential in Oxford at a young age and took a chance. Funk moved to Oxford in 2008 from Statesboro, Georgia to open up Grandma Slackers.
Grandma Slackers is a store that sells tobacco products and smoking equipment. The shop mostly sells pipes, incense, tapestries, T-shirts, and detoxes.
“Even on the East Coast, I heard that Oxford had a market, and I came to fill it,” Funk said.
Funk didn’t have a problem finding a place to rent in Oxford, but only found locations with a three-year lease, so he knew he had to find a new place in the future.
The first location was by Coleman Funeral Home and the AT&T building. “The owner of the building next to me hated that I had a smoke shop, so he bought out the entire building,” Funk said. “… My shop is completely legal. We can and have jumped through every hoop to be where we are.”
Funk moved into the building he has now at 2620 West Jackson Avenue, and he has been renting from the owner of his current location for the past four years on a month-to-month basis. El Mariachi and Grandma Slackers both rent property from the same owner.
Oxford has been growing with new businesses, and more people are relocating to the town. Funk thinks these new big businesses are the reason why he’s being forced to relocate.
Franchises such as Dick’s Sporting Goods have just opened up with Marshalls and Ulta to follow across the street from Grandma Slackers and El Mariachi.
When Funk heard the owner had changed El Mariachi’s lease, he knew he had to start looking for a new place to rent. It has taken a difficult 14 months to find a new location.
“I’ve had people not return my calls, say they can’t rent to me for moral reasons, and people just said no,” said Funk, who offered to pay a year’s rent when singing the lease to owners, and still received rejection.
Funk thinks the reason why people will not return his calls is because he is young and doesn’t have a lot of references. He also speculates it’s because he was starting the business alone without a financial backer.
Taylor Upchurch, owner of Cloud 9 Vapor Supply Company, said one of her employees heard about Funk’s trouble finding a new location, so she called her landlord.
“At first, she didn’t know what a smoke shop was, so she said she had to research it,” Upchurch said.
The landlord agreed to rent to Funk after he passed all of the background checks and requirements. At the new location, the store will be called Slackers Supply.
“We restructured our business one year ago and took on some new business partners, so we decided to change the name,” Funk said.
The previous name came from Funk’s nickname, “Grandmaster Funk,” and he switched the letters around to form Grandma Slackers Fun Pets.
Funk just started doing local advertising last week in the Local Voice to tell people about their new location in the shopping center on West Oxford Loop next to Cloud 9.
“The great thing about the new location is that we’ve already started to do renovations,” he said. “We will finally have carpet, air conditioning, you know – things that a normal business should have,” Funk said.
Grandma Slackers will not be closed during the move. Funk said he will remain at the previous location until the end of November to redirect customers to the new store at 2617 West Oxford Loop Suite 2.
“I am extremely stoked about Grandma Slackers moving two doors down,” he said. “I definitely think that we will both be seeing more business.”
Upchurch opened Cloud 9 two years ago on West Oxford Loop. “I was lucky I got into this area when I did,” he said, “because of the new businesses coming to this side of town.”
Funk believes that smoke shops are rising in popularity due to marijuana becoming more socially acceptable. “More people aren’t afraid to say that they smoke,” Funk said.
According to 2013 USA TODAY article titled “Legal smoke shops flourish as pot use grows” about the rising popularity of legal smoke shops, owners abide by the law by emphasizing that the merchandise they sell is for tobacco use only.
Upchurch and Funk refer customers to each other often. Currently, the only other smoke shop in Oxford is Local Color, which has been open since 1973.
Funk’s future plans are to open a wholesale warehouse in Atlanta. “I plan to have it open by the time I’m 30,” he said. “Now, it’s looking like it’s going to open when I’m 30.”
Funk owns another smoke shop in his hometown of Statesboro, Georgia. He plans to run both stores and the warehouse from Atlanta.