Phatmanz Alley devoted to great pipes and making customers to feel good

Rick Zimmerman knows the importance of owning a good pipe.

Don’t believe us? Listen to this story. 

One day a few years ago, he was driving down the freeway, window down, arm hanging out, pipe in hand. Suddenly, he lost his grip, his pipe flew out of his hand and went clanking down the road. He was bummed. It was his favorite.
About a year later, a customer came walking into to Phatmanz Alley — the Central California smoke shop that Zimmerman owns — looking to buy a new pipe. Zimmerman whipped out one similar to the pipe he lost. The customer balked. Said he already had one like that, that he found it on the side of the freeway.
Could it be? At Zimmerman’s request, the customer brought the pipe into the store and — sure enough! — it was Zimmerman’s beloved pipe. What were the odds? So they worked out a trade. The old pipe for any new one in the store.
All this is just a long way of saying that Zimmerman is really devoted to pipes. It’s why he got into the business and why his store is overflowing with pipes for any customer who is just as dedicated as him.
“As I kid,” Zimmerman says, “I always had the best selection of pipes out of all my friends. My favorite part about this whole culture is the apparatus you smoke with.”
Inside Phatmanz Alley — which has two locations, one in Clovis and one in Visalia, which are both near Fresno — there’s a huge wall of pipes. They’re the main attraction in a store that sells everything from detox products and jewelry to stash cans and digital scales.
“The biggest challenge is making sure we have everything our customers could want in stock,” Zimmerman says. “I hate it when someone asks me for an item and we don’t have it. I watch them walk out the door and that is no good for business.”

Spoken like a true businessman.

Zimmerman opened Phatmanz Alley in 2004 when he moved his family from Illinois to California. Prior to moving to California, he owned a smoke shop called Cloud 9 in McHenry, Illinois for five years.
One cardinal rule of the smoke shop biz, he says, is employing friendly, attentive workers. Between his two shops, a garden center in Illinois and his custom glass business, Zimmerman employs 14 people.

“After years of hearing how rude the staff at other shops was, I knew we needed to be different,” Zimmerman says. “Because if our customer thinks our employees are rude, why in the hell would they want to give us their money? Customer service is No. 1.

“What makes us unique is the fact that we have a wide range of products, we specialize in American made products and we also blow a lot of our own glass,” Zimmerman says. That’s something he started when the country sank into recession.
Zimmerman wanted to diversify his business offerings, so he started Phat Tubz (pronounced Fat Tubes) also based in Clovis.
“We had to find a way to stay above our competitors,” Zimmerman says. “So by making our own glass line, the customers in our area could only get these pieces from our stores. Because we make them, we can sell them for less than other places, making our prices untouchable.”
In addition to Phatmanz Alley, Phat Tubz are sold at smoke shops up and down California and in states such as Colorado, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia.
While pipes are obviously a love, Zimmerman says he’s also always on the prowl for new merchandise that will bring in new customers. He sells tattooing gear and plans to start stocking homebrew equipment as well.
Basically, anything his customers will love as much as he loved that pipe.
“We want our customers to feel good”,  Zimmerman says.  We are a happy hippie kind of shop.
Phatmanz Alley
200 W. Shaw Ave # 107 / Clovis, Calif.
1746 South Mooney Blvd. /  Visalia, CA

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