With so many vape shops springing up all over the country, standing out from the crowd is more important than it’s ever been. Alongside first-class customer service and quality products, success in the modern vape market is about brand identity – something Portsmouth’s Steam Machine has in spades.
There are no black snapbacks here. Steam Machine’s staff are dressed to the nines, in keeping with the shop’s rustic aesthetic. The shop is like a portal to a simpler time, albeit one rife with high-end mods and premium e-liquids.
Almost as important as what goes on within the confines of a shop itself is the role of social media. While I’m generally more comfortable behind the camera (or, better still, nowhere near it), the social media guys at Steam Machine helped add to the excitement as the bus welcomed vapers throughout the day.
With the bus set up, social media manager Darrell hopped aboard to introduce himself and us to his audience watching on Facebook Live. A tour of the bus followed and his excitement at revealing some of the features boosted my mood for the day ahead.
Darrell’s journey from smoker to vaper is one tinged with tragedy. A serious house fire severely damaged his property, causing significant stress which lead him back onto cigarettes after he’d previously managed to quit with the aid of a cigalike.
“A while after that, a friend of mine introduced me to this ‘vaping thing’. It had come a long, long way since I had the cigalike.”
Now, as well as being a passionate vaper and Steam Machine employee, Darrell is looking to start an advocacy group, uniting vape companies from around the country.
As a SNES Street Fighter battle between staff ensued behind us, I spoke to visitor Roy – a somewhat sceptical smoker whose friends were increasingly making the switch to e-cigarettes. He appeared to be close to pulling the trigger, so it was an honour to be the one to help him enter the world of vaping with the aid of a free, easy-to-use starter kit.
Next up was Danny, who seemed as interested in the vehicle’s potential as a party bus as any of its contents. I soon directed him to the vape box to try out some potential new liquids.
“There are so many of them now, I might never find the right one. I can only keep trying, I suppose!”
I headed back into the shop where staff and customers chatted casually. It was clear from the relaxed atmosphere that they felt at home. As manager Paul explained, that’s all part of Steam Machine’s charm.
“It’s like a social club, really. We don’t pressure people to buy things.”
With the evening upon us, it was time to pack down and head off for the next leg of the journey, full steam ahead