By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Hillbilly Vape, first opened in the spring of 2017, went up in flames early June with an estimated of $30 to $40,000 in damages and loss. Amongst the inventory lost was the entire stock of juice which amounted to around 950 bottles, over 100 mods, and all coils used for the heating elements of the mods. The tobacco pipes and body jewelry was salvageable, however the great task of cleaning and disinfecting is still ongoing. Some of the battery cases and chargers escaped with just smoke damage on the packaging, therefore owner Dave Stemple, is selling these at cost. In addition to the newly remodeled venue being demolished and the loss of inventory, he also lost three and a half shelving units, two display cases, and three tablet check out systems amongst other personal items.
Unfortunately, one of his favorite items was also lost in the fire. While on a road trip with his wife in Savannah, Ga., they witnessed a street vendor composing a work of art using spray paint. They purchased this large piece as a souvenir from their trip and hung it on the shop wall just behind where the fire is believed to have begun. The Parsons Volunteer Fire Department believes the fire initiated from an electrical source which is where Stemple had a printer located on top of a filing cabinet. Earlier that day, a customer returned an e-cigarette device powered by a lithium ion battery. The device was malfunctioning and wouldn’t charge properly; therefore, Stemple accepted the device back with plans to contact the company the next day. He sat the e-cigarette on top of his printer and though he believes this could have been the cause, no one will truly every know. “I’m just thankful it was my shop and not my customer’s home,” he admitted.
Remarkably, on June 17, Hillbilly Vape officially reopened for business despite their hardship. Landlord Ren Adkins generously allowed Stemple to re-open temporarily in the old yard sale/Christmas gift shop with access via the old vape shop side door. “I couldn’t ask for better landlords, they’ve bent over backwards for me,” commented Stemple. They have assisted their tenant by waiving a month’s rent, lending him a cash register, providing rebuilding materials, and so much more.
The day after the fire, Stemple went to the shop just to assess the damage. As soon as he arrived, friends, customers, and family members started showing up asking what they could do to help. By 11 p.m. that night, Stemple said most of the debris had already been removed thanks to volunteers. “We had so many people come out to help, I can’t even keep track to be honest,” Stemple said. In addition, he has received assistance through suppliers offering discounted prices to assist in restocking his inventory, the City of Parsons gave permission for a trash truck driver to volunteer his time to bring down a truck for trash disposal, Nick and Courtney Barb donated cleaners and other products, a patron donated the necessary materials to rewire the shop, a few customers donated a tablet, card reader, and beverage cooler, along with many monetary donations and time spent assisting in clean up. Stemple couldn’t believe the outpouring of love the locals have shown in his time of need that enabled him to get the shop operable again until he can renovate the charred area.
As another form of assistance for Stemple and his family to return to full operation, they are offering a gift card drawing he is referring to as the Rebuild Raffle. At one for $1 or 6 for $5, you can purchase tickets for a chance to win a $200, $100, or $50 gift card to Hillbilly Vape. Tickets are available in the shop and the drawing will be held on July 31.
Though they still face a lot of challenges in the future, the Stemple Family is doing their best to keep their businesses open and support our small community. Dave’s Deals, a thrift shop also owned by Stemple, is also in full operation and was unscathed by the fire.