“How old are your grandchildren?” I asked at the start of my conversation with the owners of Village Grannies, Zviah Eldar and Vered Behr. They laughed and responded, “We don’t have any grandchildren, we just think of ourselves as the Grannies of the East Village. This area is filled with so many young people.” And that was only the beginning of an amusing, enlightening, and absolutely wonderful time spent in this novel head shop.
The two women have been friends for ages. Both are originally from Israel, although Zviah was raised in Canada and now resides in the East Village, a neighborhood that she adores. One day they were discussing what they might like to do in their next stage of life, and all of a sudden they were on the road traveling throughout the country meeting American artists who make beautiful water pipes. “It took us one year to find the perfect products. Everything is hand-picked by us.”
“We wanted to be a gallery – a place where people would appreciate the artwork.” Much of what they carry are certainly collector’s items. Zviah told me people spend a lot of time looking until they find exactly what they like. It reminded her of someone selecting a piece of jewelry – a business that she had been in previously. Coming to Village Grannies is more than simply visiting a shop, it is an extraordinary experience. “We never meant for it to be like this, but it has become this.” And then they pointed out to me that every other head shop is run by men.
In the short time that they had been opened – since the end of 2016 – the two have found that they are having so much fun. “We love meeting the people, be it the locals or the tourists.” They were excited to tell me that they already have repeat customers. They certainly had many stories to share. “Parents buying for their twenty-year-olds was a real eye opener, but our favorite is the grandchild making a purchase for their grandparent.”
Village Grannies gives a new name to a head shop. This is a boutique filled with magnificent art that happens to be used for smoking. There are small colorful glass pipes hanging from the store’s actual pipes, and then there is an area that looks like a science corner – the clear glass pieces reminded me of what one uses in a chemistry class. From the glass bongs that look like microscopes to the unique and intricately designed water pipes, there is an endless array of smoking instruments. And when I commented on the exceptionally good pricing of the items, the women were pleased. “Many smoke shops bargain, we just have quality items and reasonable prices.”
As Vered explained, “Everything you thought about what a smoke shop is, we are not.” The women are hoping that people will rethink the smoke shop experience. Whether you are into smoking or not, it is definitely worth meeting this dynamic duo and hearing their fabulous stories. There is absolutely nothing like them on the side streets of Manhattan – from 1st- 125th – and I have walked every single one of them.