‘Head shop’ coming to Shelton location

A store selling “smoking tobacco accessories” could open this summer on Bridgeport Avenue, near downtown.

Robert Dunn, who lives in Shelton, plans to open an establishment called Head Quarters that would have two separate retail sections.

One part would be entered from the outside and sell such items as clothing, caps, sunglasses, body jewelry, skateboards, and fragrance oils.

The other part would have a separate inside entrance, be restricted to people age 18 and older, and sell smoking pipes and related products.
Dunn said the area selling pipes would “sell anything needed for tobacco use,” including glass water pipes.

These types of stores have traditionally been known as “head shops,” and Dunn’s store name is a takeoff on that expression. The items they sell can be used to smoke marijuana as well as tobacco.

Reluctance to make a motion

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) approved the store in a 3-2 vote last week, after an awkward moment when no member would make the motion to approve it.

“This has never happened before,” said P&Z Chairman Ruth Parkins, noting that taking no action or rejecting the application could lead to a lawsuit by the applicant.

Soon after, a motion was made and seconded and the vote was taken. Voting in favor were Parkins, Anthony Pogoda Jr. and James Tickey, and voting against were Nancy Dickal and Virginia Harger.

“It’s going to be very tasteful,” Dunn assured the P&Z.

Rick Schultz, city P&Z administrator, said he’s unaware of any similar shop in Shelton in recent decades.

Commercial zone

The shop will be in the small strip plaza at 99 Bridgeport Avenue, which also houses a Shell gas station, convenience store and luncheonette.

The building is in a commercial zone that allows almost any kind of retail use, providing the P&Z with limited leeway. It is not in a Planned Development District, which gives the P&Z much more control over acceptable uses.

Dunn now operates another business in the 2,500-square-foot space, Maximum Value Online, which will be replaced by Head Quarters.

Maximum Value Online opened last summer and sells secondhand items, often from estate sales or on consignment, on a retail basis and through websites.

“I’m choosing to make a change now to get a better use,” Dunn said of his decision to open Head Quarters at the rented site.

The same space previously housed an auto parts store.

‘Funky, cool items’

Dunn said his goal to have a place where any suburban mom in a Volvo would feel comfortable bringing her children to the part of the store that doesn’t sell smoking accessories.

“We want people to come in and say, ‘What a nice store with funky, cool items,’ and not even know about this other part unless they are interested,” he said.

He told the P&Z that some patrons “won’t even know it’s there.”

Parkins said the name leaves little to the imagination. “The store name gives a connotation,” she said, adding that “we are a free society.”

'Seems like it's for Las Vagas'

Parkins told Dunn the proposed establishment “seems like it’s for Las Vegas.”

She also said selling skateboards could present a problem in such a highly trafficked area, with the gas station and busy street, but Dunn said skateboarding won’t be the primary focus of the shop.

Dunn joked he might open a marijuana dispensary somewhere in the future. “They’re going to legalize soon,” he said.

Inside the new store, Dunn said, employees and signage cannot make references to marijuana directly or through slang terminology. He stressed that what the store will sell should be considered “tobacco smoking accessories.”

People trying to enter the smoking accessories area will be carded if there’s any question about their age, he said. “We will operate legally,” he said.

Increasing demand

Dunn, during a later interview, said the legalization of medical marijuana in Connecticut has been good for the smoking accessories business. “It’s jumped dramatically,” he said.

A handful of medical marijuana dispensaries are expected to open soon around the state, and Dunn said medical marijuana users are creating a demand.

“The people who need to use it legally will need ways to smoke it or ingest it,” he said. “We’ll be catching that at the beginning.”

The nation’s attitude toward recreational marijuana use by adults has been shifting quickly in recent years. Recreational marijuana now is legal in four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington), and Washington, D.C., and a few other states are likely to follow.

Connecticut has decriminalized adult marijuana use and legalized medical marijuana.

Dunn's business background

Dunn has primarily been in the restaurant business in Fairfield County, where he grew up.

He owned restaurants in Stamford and Georgetown before opening two MacDaddy’s, a macaroni-and-cheese eatery, in Monroe and Fairfield. He is no longer associated with that business.

He moved to Shelton about two years ago.