On the corner of Wilson Ave and Noll St sat a little store with a “for lease” sign in the window for years. In 2013 Erik Pye saw the store with his girlfriend Lydia Kernodle and decided to take the last little bit of money he had left and open a head shop in.
Erik had been selling glass pipes as a street vendor after graduating with an art degree from Cooper Union. A vendor he frequented had mentioned how easy it would be for him to get a vendor license with his veteran status, and thankfully for us, Erik followed suit.
In its early days, Sunflower Glass Company had a table and two cases, one of which was totally empty. The store didn’t don the typical head shop garb; Bob Marley and Cheech and Cong paraphernalia were replaced with the owner’s own artwork and carefully placed tapestries because Erik wanted customers to understand the spiritual side of smoking.
“People in this industry see smoking as a party. I don’t see it that way. It’s an effective modern-day ritual. I think smoking is very spiritual,” Erik explained. “The objects within the ritual of smoking become more important than you even realize.”
The esthetic of each accessory is very important to Erik. “You’re going back to that ritual every day to be spiritual, so those items should be something nice and fit your style and be something that you like.”
With a breadth of product, Erik spends hours researching both the 120 suppliers the store buys from and the information on smoking technology. Everything in the store is hand chosen by Erik.
“Everything in here is something that I want! You’re going to be staring at that thing for the next two years. It’s important that I give [my customers] as many options as I can,” he said.
Erik prides himself in knowing as much about his product as he can, and funnels that information into Sunflower Pipes’ blog.
“We’ve been doing a lot of articles on the new technology. It’s become a massive industry that’s worth millions and millions of dollars,” he explained.
The blog covers everything from e-cigarettes to vaporizers and pipes. The shop also runs a Pipe School, designed to teach novices and experts alike about the ins and outs of smoking, from it’s ritualistic beginnings, history of the pipe, to everyday maintenance and care of both pipes and grinders.
As with all great businesses, Sunflower Pipes has an online store, with a bevy of American glass blown pipes in an array of cool and interesting styles.
“I like to integrate more products like handmade jewelry and things like that to welcome in more people and have nice accessories,” Erik told us.
Erik’s knowledge shows in the store’s customer service. As a newcomer to Bushwick, I remember finding the store after taking an afternoon stroll around my new digs. I popped in, looking to buy a cheap pipe that looked cool, like most people wandering into a headshop. Little did I know, Sunflower Glass Company was about to change the way I smoked forever.
Eyeing a bluish green bubbler, the salesperson walked me through how to care and clean my new pipe, how often to change the water, and the pros and cons of glass and mesh screens. I quickly saw that I’d be making a much bigger purchase than I anticipated, but the warmth of the counterperson told me this wasn’t a sales pitch, but a friend teaching me how to get the best time out of my smoking. When I finally walked out of the store, I had a new water bubbler, a nice grinder, a cute little glass flower screen, and a new appreciation for smoking.
“A lot of times people are really focused on price when getting a pipe. That’s really understandable, but when you’re thinking about what pipe you’re going to get, you’re going to smoke about $2,000 of whatever you smoke through that pipe. If you spend a little more you’re going to enjoy it every single time, not just once in a while.”
Whether you’re just getting started, or are an avid smoker, Sunflower Pipes has you covered. Word on the street is the little store will be opening up a second location! With Erik at the helm, it’s no wonder they’ve become Bushwick’s premier destination for everything a smoker could wish for.
Sunflower Glass Company is located at 12 Wilson Ave, Bushwick. They are open daily from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm except for Fridays and Saturdays when they remain open until 10:30 pm; and for Sundays when they close at 8:30 pm.