Gus Ashkar says he thinks the smoking ban in Michigan restaurants and bars makes perfect sense. “It’s a good law,” he says, sitting behind the counter of his recently opened Puff Puff Smoke Shop in the Oaks shopping center. “Not everybody chooses to smoke, and those who don’t shouldn’t have to inhale smoke if they don’t want to—especially if they have medical conditions such as asthma,” he says. For those who do smoke, there’s Puff Puff, Ashkar’s fourth smoke shop in southeast Michigan; he also owns two in Taylor and one in Southgate.
Before Hourani opened Lucky Haskins in Ann Arbor in 2009, he sold in antiques malls, and that’s what he’s going back to. “Knightsbridge Mall in Northville for sure,” he says, and maybe some other places as the summer progresses.
￼One long, wood-paneled wall in the pristine 1,200-square-foot space displays row after row of pipe tobacco in bags, each the size of a loaf of bread: red, gold, silver, natural, menthol, and menthol gold. Just as many varieties of cigarette tobacco hang neatly from hooks for those who choose to roll their own. There are also chewing tobacco and every known cigarette brand, by the pack or case, all cheaper than what gas stations or party stores charge, Ashkar says, because he buys in such high volume. For those who want to quit smoking (or at least cut down) and who believe that electronic cigarettes will help, Puff Puff Smoke Shop offers a variety of e-cigarettes, too.
Ashkar is particularly proud of his shop’s cedar-lined, walk-in humidor. It houses over a hundred different types of cigars, ranging in price from $5 to $25 each. That’s Ashkar’s own preferred form of tobacco. “I smoke cigars, but never in my house,” he smiles—he is the father of three young children, ranging in age from one to seven years old. When asked how he would feel if one of his own children grows up to smoke, Ashkar sits back and after a pause thoughtfully replies, “If you tell a kid not to do it, they will do it. Let them read about it. It’s up to them.”
Puff Puff Smoke Shop, 964 E. Michi- gan, 316–2691. Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
The Riverside Café-Deli-Grill in the Parkside Plaza strip mall lasted just over a year. Its doors closed earlier this spring, and no one could be reached for comment.
Magician, juggler, and pizza-maker Rich Runles leased space inside the Country Market to open Countryside Pizza back in January 2010. He performed tricks for customers while their pizzas baked. But on a recent visit, the shop was gone, and Runles’s phone number has been disconnected. And Country Market itself has announced plans to close—more on that in the Fall Community Observer.