Exceptional Retailer Vol 63: L&L’s Smokin’ Hot Gift Shop

06
Dec

LOVE LIVELIHOOD

L&L’s Smokin’ Hot Gift Shop in Texas is an old-school mom-and-pop headshop that’s focused on friendly service and making their customers feel like part of the family.

This isn’t quite where Letty Harris thought she would end up.

She always wanted to open her own shop. Twenty years ago, she dreamed about opening a Christian book store — as funny as that may seem now. She confided her dream in her nephew, who told Letty there’s no money in that.

“You’re going to be starving holding onto your little Bibles,” he told her.

He had a better idea: Open up a headshop.

Letty told him the truth: She didn’t even know what that was. So they went to Albuquerque and scoped one out. She was intrigued by the idea, but said she’d have to learn as she went because she knew literally nothing about that world. But she held onto her dream and held onto her nephew’s suggestion.

Then came the man who changed her whole world.

Not long after that, Larry Harris walked into her life. He was a co-worker of Letty’s nephew, who spotted her and asked: “Is she single?” She was. They started dating and a couple years later, they were married and moving to Lubbock, Tx., to open a headshop because it turned out Larry knew enough of that world to help Letty.

“I think we make a really, really good team,” she says. “Which is what I think made the shop what it is now.”

L&L’s Smokin’ Hot Gift Shop — named for Letty and Larry — opened in 2000 and it’s been going strong ever since. Their dream is a little different than most people’s dreams. They’re not trying to take over the world with their business. That was never the goal.

They’re just trying to have a life together, to have a business, to eat lunch together and go home together and to walk next to each other every day on this journey called life,

“If we’re going to do this,” Letty said. “We wanted to ensure we did right and that’s doing it yourself. People can’t believe it. Like, wow, how can you be together all the time? It’s fun for us. We enjoy that.”

This is a true mom-and-pop business like the ones from the good ol’ days. They’re open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days per week. It’s only the two of them, no employees. If they want to take a vacation, they call on family members to help out.

This is practical for their business — they’re not trying to turn one shop into 12 — but it also paints a picture of the type of shop they want to be. They want to give customers personal attention. They want to build relationships with their customers. They want their own personal investment to be the passion that fuels the business.

“We can give better service by doing it this way,” Letty says. “By keeping it a mom-and-pop thing.”

You know how serious she is about that? Letty says they’d never just close the store to go on vacation. “We want to be there for our customers,” she says. “We know they depend on us.”

Even though she didn’t know anything about the head-shop world 20 years ago, she certainly knows a lot about customer service. So the approach at L&L has been about two things: giving people fantastic customer service and giving them a wide variety of goods.

That goes far beyond smoking accessories. The place is called L&L’s Smokin’ Hot Gift Shop because they are plenty of gifts to choose from. You want a funny T-shirt? There’s that. You want incense and candles? That too. Tattoo supplies? Yep, got those.

“We sell a little bit of everything,” Letty says.

That includes a popular adult section, novelties, knives, CBD products, charcoal artwork, and the list goes on.

“We have people coming in here that are not interested in tobacco products,” Letty says. “But they really do want to come in and get a gift for their girlfriend or wife. We have that.”

She continues: “Our shop is not huge,” Letty says. “But you feel very welcome. You feel like you’re going into a buddy’s house.”

The Harrises are definitely friendly like that. If you walk in, you’ll probably find Letty saying, “Can I help you? What do you need? You’re looking for a gift?

“We offer one heck of a friendly relationship,” she says. “We don’t just bring you in, take your money and send you out.”

Nope, they’re all about building a relationship with their customers so they come back in again and again. That’s the only type of expansion plan they’re interested in. Coming up on 18 years in business, they have no plans of getting much bigger.

L&L’s Smokin’ Hot Gift Shop is quite happy to be the friendly mom-and-pop shop run by a friendly married couple.

“If anything,” Letty says. “We just want to keep expanding our products in this setting.”


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