Wonderland Troll

Wonderland 2001

In the year 2000, I managed to survive the infamous Y2K scare. My best friend and I were driving back from Fort Collins, Colorado, where I had just purchased my very first color-changing glass bong. As we made the hour-long journey back to Greeley, a decision formed in my mind. I wanted to open a glass head shop in our town, exclusively selling glass products. Initially, I had thought of naming the store "Strictly Glass," but after taking a massive bong rip and brainstorming, the name "Wonderland" slipped out amidst a fit of coughs. My friends unanimously approved of the name.

     Fort Collins had become the go-to place for my friends and me to buy any glass pieces. Unfortunately, our town of Greeley only had one outdated head shop that sold metal, wood, or clay pipes. There was no glass or bongs available. The popularity of color-changing fumed glass pipes had already exploded in Fort Collins, and I wanted to bring that trend to downtown Greeley.

     Gaffers Glass, my favorite store in Fort Collins, had the added attraction of live flameworking demonstrations while you shopped. The moment I witnessed the mesmerizing process of glass melting, I fell head over heels in love with the craft. I envisioned Wonderland as a place where I could sell my own glass creations, as well as showcase local glass artists and offer live glass blowing or flameworking demonstrations. I was determined to learn everything I could about flameworking and even purchased my first two books on the subject, titled "Contemporary Lampworking."

    Although I had a background in pottery and was skilled at sculpting clay and throwing pots on a pottery wheel, I never felt a deep connection or passion for that medium or any other form of art like I did for glass. Flameworking had captured my heart completely and unconditionally. I was committed to making Wonderland a reality and becoming a successful flameworker and small business retailer.

    To prepare myself for this venture, I devoured every book I could find on small business management, from accounting to marketing. Simultaneously, I immersed myself in books about flameworking and glass. I also took the time to research the local laws regarding paraphernalia and sought the guidance of an attorney to ensure I navigated the legalities correctly. I knew that the timing was perfect, especially with the recent legalization of medical marijuana. I didn't want to waste any time setting up my shop, fearing that someone else might beat me to it.

    However, there was one major obstacle standing in my way: money. Like every startup business, I needed capital to get started. I reached out to every family member, friend, and bank, but unfortunately, I couldn't secure any interest or investment. Instead of giving up, I persevered. I continued working, searching, and learning. Eventually, luck was on my side, and I was approved for multiple personal credit cards.

     At that time, I was living in a basement apartment beneath an old sporting goods store in downtown Greeley. I arranged a meeting with my landlord, the owner, and presented my business plan. Fortunately, I struck a deal to rent both the store and apartment, with one month of free rent in exchange for my sweat equity in cleaning up and making the storefront presentable. It was March 2001, and my goal was to open Wonderland in April, with a grand opening on 4/20/2001. Miraculously, we achieved it!

    Initially, we only had two old jewelry cases, which we filled with glass pieces from a local flameworker we had met at a concert and a vendor we encountered at the Champs trade show. Additionally, I fully committed myself to the craft by purchasing a Carlisle torch, tools, and raw materials to start flameworking myself. The journey was filled with countless hurdles and challenges, and the thought of quitting often crept into my mind. However, we persevered, and Wonderland's grand opening on 4/20 was an immediate success, garnering tremendous support.

     Little did I know, even greater challenges were on the horizon, the most significant being "Operation Pipe Dreams."


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.