Proposed tobacco shop draws town ireJACKSON — The City Council chambers were packed Thursday in Jackson for a meeting about the city’s newest proposed business — Herb N’Legend, which specializes in tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia.
JACKSON — The City Council chambers were packed Thursday in Jackson for a meeting about the city’s newest proposed business — Herb N’Legend, which specializes in tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia.
Terry Gray, of Baltic, S.D., who owns the existing Herb N’Legend store in Luverne, along with Monty Hagedorn of Tea, S.D., presented information about the existing business and the shop that will open in Jackson, answered questions from the audience and fielded criticism of tobacco and the other items Herb N’Legend sells.
“As far as the legalities go, we could have just opened (a store in Jackson),” Gray said, in response to a question about whether citizens had a right to determine whether the business could open. “There’s no law saying we can’t open a business in a community. If you just tried to stop us, a lawyer on retainer would be there in a heartbeat.”
The meeting was arranged by the Jackson Business Development Committee in response to the community’s concern over Herb N’Legend’s products.
Gray’s presentation described the products his business offers — including incense, two types of tobacco and machines, glassware, cigars, herbs hookahs locally-made jewelry, loose-leaf tea, posters, vaporizers and glass pipes.
Gray also said his business gave back to the community, collecting 600 pounds of food for the local food shelf as well as collecting money each month for charities including Relay for Life.
After Gray’s presentation, community members who had signed up to speak had 2 minutes to address Gray with questions, criticism or, in only one case, encouragement.
“I’m a schoolteacher here in Jackson and Lakefield,” said Dan Joyce, whose father suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “I’m familiar with the type of store you’re trying to bring (here)… out on the east coast, it’s referred to as a ‘head shop.’ It’s there to promote undercover drug activity and get young people interested in the drug community and experience marijuana and other drugs related to the use of pipes. And I, myself and my family, have been through the experience of a chemical dependency, and I think everyone in here can relate to us. And it’s not a really wonderful experience, and I cannot support a business coming to town that’s going to put our children in jeopardy.”
Gray answered that his own grandfather died of lung cancer, and claimed some Herb N’Legend products, such as vaporizers, were healthier than cigarettes.
“I understand your concern about drug activity. Any mention of illegal activity, and you’ll be asked to leave the store… in no way do we promote that,” Gray said, adding, “You kind of misread what we sell.”
The most emotional testimony of the evening came from Jennifer Holm of Jackson.
“I am a recovering drug addict, clean for almost three years. And four years ago, I would have been his number one customer, his number one advocate to come to our town, and I have had a huge change of heart,” Holm said. “I work so hard every day to stay sober, and for him to come to town, it’s crushing that, and it’s making it ten times harder to stay sober.”
Holm noted that Jackson has a drug problem, and said that having an Herb N’Legend would only fuel the fire.
Gray responded that he himself had been sober for three years.
Eleven people from Start Noticing, also known as Teens Against Tobacco Advertising of Jackson, attended the meeting, including eight students. Several of them said they believed having a tobacco shop in town would encourage kids to start smoking and given all the anti-tobacco messages students receive at school, would also be sending young people a mixed message.
In response, Gray said people had to be 18 years of age or older in order to enter the store, but did note that if someone had a young child with them, he would prefer to have the young child in the store rather than have a parent leave the child unattended in a car. Gray also said the store would not carry cigarettes.
Start Noticing member Aluxis Ingebrigtson, of Alpha, said she surveyed 133 students in Jackson County Central High School, and found that 105 of them believed a tobacco store would increase teen smoking in the community. She also reported that 99 of the students said they didn’t want a tobacco shop in their community at all.
“Our youth is sending us a message,” Ingebrigtson said. “Why aren’t we listening?”
Gray believed the same 99 students would say they also didn’t want a liquor store in town, and pointed out that Jackson’s liquor store is owned by the city.
Gray also took the opportunity to say he was not approached by the city of Jackson or any other organization and asked to bring his business there, but that he approached Jackson’s economic development office because of the city’s location between Fairmont, Worthington and Okoboji, Iowa.
“Yes, we do sell tobacco, but we focus on cutting or quitting smoking,” Gray said. “… I’m guessing the same survey would probably put several of the other businesses (in town), and probably all the gas stations, out of business.”
Fred Bern, a member of the Jackson City Council, also spoke, telling the crowd Herb N’Legend had not come through the city council, and said the county provided businesses with license, not the city.
“I respect your opportunity to come to town in Jackson,” Bern told Gray. “You have that right. Our forefathers fought for that right, but I don’t think your type of business belongs here.”
Ken Temple, also a city councilman, also said he believed bringing Herb N’Legend to town would be a bad choice.
“I hear you talking about hookahs and water pipes and chubblers. I went on (the Herb N’Legend) Web site to look at it, I said ‘holy crap!’ I guess I’ve gotten old. I didn’t realize it, but what they call chubblers now, when I was in high school and college, were called crack pipes, water pipes were called bongs and a hookah was used to smoke opium in opium dens,” said Todd Meyer, superintendent of Jackson County Central. “You’d probably be saving some of your own money if you’d go somewhere else.”
Gray responded that a chubbler is not a crack pipe, because a crack pipe would not have a carburetor on it to allow air and water to mix together.
“It’s impossible to smoke crack out of a chubbler,” Gray said. “… we do not sell anything without a carb on it that could be used as a street tube or a crack pipe.”
“I understand we’re in a free economy, and our economy is based on free enterprise, and it is our choice to ask you not to show up, also, and that’s why we’re here,” said community member Jeff Voss.