Glassware shop a longtime fixture on South Main St.
WILKES-BARRE — With medical cannabis use legalized in the state, as well as the influx of new cannabis and hemp products, like Delta 8 and 9 THC, CBD, and many other herbal remedies, the need for glassware, among other necessities, has never been higher.
Fortunately, Utopia, 82 S. Main St., at the intersection of South Main and East Northampton streets, has been providing precisely what one may need to remedy numerous ailments since the ’90s.
Current owner Bob McCulloch, 43, of Hunlock Creek, was a longtime employee before he took over a decade ago.
“The previous owners, when they were looking to get out of the game, they asked a few of their employees and I was the one who stepped up and took over,” McCulloch said.
And things were going well for years, until March of 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to close from March, and I believe through August. September is when we opened back up,” he explained. That’s quite a long layoff for a small local business.
McCulloch explained that the shop’s customer base is constantly shifting and rotating. “A customer that you have at 18, you might have them at 28, 38, or 48 but chances are you’re going to lose those people by the time they’re 25, 26, 27. We’re used to that cycle and it (the pandemic) kind of just cut that cycle off. We felt like we had to restart our customer base.” He further explained that with downtown office workers going remote and students from King’s and Wilkes campuses doing the same, it was a very real struggle to overcome.
“It’s a lot less blue and yellow and red and gold downtown than I’ve seen in the past,” he said, referring to the institutions’ colors.
However, McCulloch and his staff were able to secure some funding through a heads-up from the Diamond City Partnership. Though the funds were initially given out as a loan, he was happy to say, “We just got a letter that it was just forgiven.”
Now, with the halfway point of 2022 looming in the distance, things have certainly begun to look up and move in a better direction.
“I wouldn’t say things have gotten totally back to normal sales-wise,” McCulloch said, “But as far as the store goes, our main focus was on employee and customer safety. So, first I came back and was kind of doing things by myself and then, you know, as unemployment ran out, that’s when we were like, ‘Alright, we wanted our people to be safe and now they’re running out of assistance.’”
At that point, McCulloch started bringing his staff of four back to work.
He spoke on being a single father of two, and how much having staff back allows for not only his fatherly duties, but for the store to operate on longer hours, allowing for more customers to come in who may not have been able to due to work schedules or things like that.
“Instead of being open from 12 to 6, well, now we could be open from 10 to 8, so those people who would get here before or after work were able to come,” McCulloch said. “So, while sales are coming back, they aren’t quite to where they were, the rest of the functions of the store were able to come back in that way.”
Moving forward, McColloch hopes to continue to offer top-notch products, like local or national hand-blown glassware, as well as do some more advertising. “We sometimes feel like we have to remind people that we’re here,” he said. He offered one idea he’s been working on with a local coffee roaster for a “grab-and-go” window, for local folks on the go, but the more minute details are still under wraps.
“We do see ourselves as more than just a smoke shop and we really want to expand what we offer,” he said.
While McCulloch acknowledged that one can go into almost any convenience store nowadays and purchase glassware, he encourages folks to not do so. “We research our products. We’re a specialty store. So, if this is stuff that you have an interest in, come see us. We’re going to be able to tell you all about the artists. We’re going to be able to tell you about the style of glassblowing they sued to create it. And the same with the other products that we offer.”
He also added that his staff is knowledgeable on other herbal products.
“If you want someone to talk to about CBD or Delta 9 or Delta 8, and all of the different cannabinoids, we’re somewhere where you could come and have a conversation about it. We’re going to give you the best information we can to help point out what products are going to be the best for you.”
Utopia offers only legal herbals and does not sell any tobacco products. They also offer shipping if needed. You can find Utopia on Facebook at Utopia Glass Shop or Instagram at utopiawb or call at 570-208-2225. Utopia is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends.