One can’t deny the creative and artistic endeavors of the counterculture of Austin, Texas, from the clothes we wear, to the accessories that not only provide a function, but capture the very essence of who we are. The Austin420 caught up with Scuba (Co-owner & Manager) as he filled us in on the world of Smoco.

AUSTIN420: What inspired you to start running your own business and create Pipes Plus/SmoCo?

SCUBA: Well to start, I have been selling glass in Austin for about 5 years now over at Pipes Plus on the “drag”. Managing the "Biggest Collection of Locally Blown Glass" exposed me to an amazing industry full of local artists and glass celebs which immediately created a love for the glass arts inside of me. Glass in an amazing art medium and can be adapted to suit the needs of the artist in so many different ways. Some of the techniques the Austin artists come up with are amazing and our extensive network of local glass blowers continues to shape the standards of the glass art industry around the world. Micah, Salt, Ivey, Joe Blow, JMass, Garner, and around 50 others are some of the imaginative forces that bring us to where we are today, establishing new art forms, and creating innovative designs in an extremely competitive industry. The opportunity to take over SmoCo came up a little over a year ago from some good friends in the industry, so I partnered up with the owner of Pipes Plus and we picked up the Congress location about a year ago renaming it Pipes Plus SmoCo. Pipes Plus has been Austin's predominant local smoke shop for almost 20 years, so rebranding SmoCo with the Pipes Plus name lets people know we are in the "local glass family" and was really a no brainer. With more room on the display floor, Pipes Plus SmoCo brings all of the local glass blowers from Pipes Plus and couples it with local band merch, comics, painters, incense, and even 1st Thursday jewelers. We strive to be a greater collection of local icons from our surrounding community, giving history of where the art has come from, where it is going, and who the hottest new people on the scene are.

AUSTIN420: Tell me of the art of glass blowing and some of the skills it requires.

SCUBA: Glass blowing in an intricate art form, full of subtle differences, and old technical trade secrets of which takes years to learn and master. How these artists do what they do is a prized commodity, and is typically only shared in a one on one apprentice scenario, or in a school for glass blowing. Both of these options are available in Austin as there are many senior glass blowers who take on apprentices from time to time, as well as several classes offered by Glass Monkey Art Studios and Austin Art Glass. Austin is the mecca of glass blowing in the south, and is home of around 80 brilliant and quite competitive artists. As for skills required I would say that some kind of art background is required, along with time and patience. No one jumps into glass blowing and rises to the top in the first year as it takes a lot of time to understand and perfect the techniques involved in the art form. The people at the top of our industry have been perfecting their craft for the majority of their lives, which is why we put our focus on the artist and their attention to the details.  

AUSTIN420: What's your stand on the medical cannabis movement?

SCUBA: I support the actions being taken by the medical movement, and look forward to an era of change in the near future. Individually we as citizens need to continue to voice our opinions to our legislative branch, as it is the only way to create changes in our world. Be the voice in your community.  As for Pipes Plus SmoCo, we regularly work with Texas NORML as well as provide a location for information to be passed out at like the Texas Hemp Campaign. We currently only sell tobacco and tobacco related items, but if the laws were to change who knows what all else a store like this could accomplish.

AUSTIN420: What functions/events has SmoCo participated in locally?

SCUBA: Pipes Plus SmoCo is the exclusive pipe and tobacco vendor for Freak Show Festival. We sponsored last year's High Time's Doobie Awards and Cowboy Cup during SxSW. We have worked with Texas NORML on the GoGreen Spring Mixer and as well as the 3day Texas Independence Music Festival. We are closely connected with SameSky Productions, Clyde and Clem's Whiskey Business, the White Ghost Shivers, East Cameron Folkcore, Eleven Fingered Charlie, Dax Norman, Clear Character, Last Gas Comedy, Austin Music Magazine and many other local cultural icons.  

AUSTIN420: What makes Austin home for you and SmoCo?

SCUBA: Pipes Plus SmoCo wouldn't exist without Austin. Austin is more than home... it is everything we stand for. With the biggest collection of locally blown glass, and a collection of everything else that is Austin, we try to be a taste of what the city has to offer. We are constantly cross promoting with local businesses and bands, and thrive on being local. We are the only shop that offers discounts to St. Edwards students and we have recently begun to sell and accept the “Go Local Austin” discount cards. I am from Houston originally... moved to Austin six years ago after being stationed out at Pearl Harbor... and have since realized Austin is the best city on Earth. I have been from London to Hong Kong and I can tell you honestly, there is no other city that can compare to what we have to offer in the ATX! ~