Getting (a)Head in State College
You’re wandering downtown State College, looking in the windows displaying plenty of Penn State pride through displays and set-ups in the windows. You’ve bought every ‘State’ and ‘Happy Valley’ item you could manage to fit in your closet from the The Family Clothesline, and there’s no good music out at Music Underground (surprising, but it happens).
Maybe you could waste your money on pizza that tastes, and looks, like cardboard. I’m looking at you Canyon. But what shops have we forgotten about? What places have we let go to the wind?
Some people, three-quarters of Penn State to be precise, in a survey I made up for this statement, partake in some sort of smoking habit, whether it’s cigarettes or cigars, hookah or god forbid, marijuana. So shouldn’t this market be tapped more effectively?
This is exactly the case for some local store owners. Local headshops, whether they feature a hookah lounge or hand-blown glass, all have their own personality as well as distinct feel. Bringing to light these magnificent places will remind us of the fun and joy we had in Jamaica Junction (even if we can’t remember anything other than Uncle Mike).
Now, keep in mind all these destinations for further investigation are solely in the market of tobacco-related products and using the wrong words in the wrong context, no matter how right it may feel, is not appropriate in these venues.
Working our way down College Avenue, the first destination we arrive at is Jamaica Junction (JJ). JJ is a two-story hippie-extravaganza. This place, right off Pugh Street, is run and operated by Uncle Mike, a bearded man who I feel has more stories than I have time to listen. JJ features a first floor filled with incense, tapestries and decorations. Upon further delving into this mysterious place, we are given two options: up the stairs or through the doorway. Through the doorway, you find a serene hookah lounge in which you can enjoy the amenities offered. However, if you choose up the stairs, you’ll find a room filled with hand-blown glass pieces such as tobacco pipes, vaporizers, and other equipment.
Pros: More hippie shop than head shop, Uncle Mike, hidden on Pugh
Cons: Not a lot of variety, few larger blown pieces
K2 or similar: Yes
When asking students about the various headshops around, there was one I was always cautious of: Grasshopper Gifts on College Ave. Upon walking up the stairs, the first thing you notice is that everything seems to be a little off. Whether it’s the funky smell leftover from the hookahs in the back or not, Grasshopper Gifts seems to give off the vibe of the weird, Oriental store every mall has, yet no one really knows how it manages. Maybe it was just me, but the shop as well as the staff was not what I had expected. I was not greeted like I was in other shops nor helped as much, leading to a disappointing visit.
Pros: Prime location on College, low cost
Cons: Seems cheap, unfriendly/unhelpful staff
K2 or similiar: Yes
For any smoker, of any kind, this is the pinnacle of your being. This newly renovated establishment by Starbucks is part hookah lounge, part concert hall, part glass shop, and part record store, which makes it one hell of a place to go. The environment feels like an old speakeasy of sorts, having to walk down a flight of stairs to an underground room where it opens up to all the aforementioned parts. There’s a bar in one corner where you can order a variety of drinks, including tea, coffee, and juices. Chronic Town is the best hookah area in State College by far, no offense JJ, you still got the flair. Stop in and check out a show while smoking some piña colada hookah, and stay for a while to peruse the vinyl and bowls.
Pros: Great environment, vinyl, shows, etc.
Cons: small glass selection, show cover charges
K2 or similiar: No
The phrase “save the best for last” often applies, and this is the case here as well. Dragonchasers, the best glass shop, features some of the most artistic pieces including bowls, bubblers pipes, and more. They also sell everything for your hookah needs as well as vaporizers and accessories. The staff is courteous and helpful, offering from the minute you come in to let you look at anything. The glass pieces range from all sizes; they even have a bowl shaped like an elephant. Dragonchasers also has a great selection of K2 and similar “incense” available with a great knowledge of the product.
Pros: Great glass, friendly staff, deal-makers
Cons: Hidden on Fraser
K2 or similar: Hell yes
Now of course there’s the other places that sell a few bowls and a grinder, but none as dedicated to the craft as the shops above. They all have one goal in mind from what I’ve gathered, and they just want to get by and give the customer what they want. So roll it tight and light it up for all those that give smoking culture a one, two puff.