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McClatchy-Tribune  08/24/2014 10:45 AM ET
Billings Gazette, Mont., Have You Heard column [Billings Gazette, Mont. :: ]

Aug. 24--The billowing e-cigarette industry has expanded into Billings Heights.

Utah-based Vapor Craziness opened a new e-cigarette lounge in early July at 315 Main St. The shop sells e-cigarette juices and mods and has a full espresso bar for customers to hang out, manager Jake Dansie said.

"We want people to come in here, have a good experience and use our free WiFi," Dansie said.

Vapor Craziness is at least the city's fourth e-cigarette shop, and two others have opened within the last five months. The other "vaping" shops are all on Billings West End.

Nationwide, sales of e-cigarettes have been skyrocketing, particularly after the Food and Drug Administration announced in April a series of regulations that critics complained were too friendly to the $2 billion industry. Sales to children and free samples were banned, but the agency resisted outright bans of the sweet juices.

Health experts say the effects of vaping remain unknown. They dispute claims that it helps people stop smoking and urge further study on the effect of the nicotine-laced juices.

Dansie is careful not to sell his products as a smoking-cessation aid, but he says they helped him quit traditional cigarettes. The Utah native worked at the Vapor Craziness home store before moving to Billings a few months ago.

Inside Vapor Craziness, casual comfort is key. Four cushioned, plush stools sit around a marble-top bar with prime view of a flat-screen TV. The walls are decorated with portrait photos of people spewing "vape" clouds into the air.

"We have a friendly atmosphere. We like to communicate with our customers, get to know our customers a little bit," Dansie said.

Vapor Craziness has 50 to 60 flavors of juices, including its own brand developed in its Utah headquarters.

The Billings shop is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Dansie said he's considering expanding hours and buying more TV sets.

"We're happy to be in Billings. It's a great place. People are very friendly," he said.

Out of the kitchen

The owner of the former Emma's Kitchen in downtown Laurel is auctioning off items from the restaurant that closed at the end of June.

Owner Collette Decker said last week she's selling restaurant equipment, furnishing, tables and chairs, kitchen utensils and packaging.

Decker had been trying to sell Emma's since last year. The restaurant, which opened in 2010,

had struggled since another Laurel eatery, the Beartooth Grill, opened in January on the city's south side, Decker said.

Call Decker at 698-7908 for more information about the equipment sale.

Chamber honor

Tom Scott, chairman of First Interstate Bank, has been named the Billings Chamber of Commerce's 2014 lifetime achievement honoree, the chamber announced last week.

Scott moved to Billings from Sheridan, Wyo., in 1970. He was named CEO of First Interstate in 1978 and stepped down to become chairman of the board in 2003.

First Interstate BancSystem, which wholly owns First Interstate Bank, has grown to 71 branches in Montana and Wyoming during Scott's tenure with the company.

Scott will receive the award during the chamber's annual meeting Sept. 18 at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana Convention Center.

Haikus from the valley

Pigskin for 'Jackets

Gridiron back to Billings

por a concussed dream?

 

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