On my free Tuesday afternoon, I decided to check out some Columbia smoke shops. Being from Kansas, I hadn't scoped them out yet and was on a mission to find some incense and a tapestry. I was thrown off by the purple door at Dreams, but loved the incense selection. I did get lost trying to find Retroactive, but I came out with an incense burner and a new tapestry.
101 E. Walnut St.
Located downtown, slightly beyond an easy walk's distance from campus, Dreams is a small, dark smoke shop with a bright purple door and no windows. In the first glass case there are several one-hitters, chiloms and grinders. Dreams has a larger selection of grinders than I had seen all day, but most of them are plastic or wood, with just a couple metal ones. The store has a decent selection of basic colorful tube water pipes, as well as more extravagant 5-foot-tall ones. This is the only store I visited with a large selection of wood pipes, displayed in a glass case with red velvet behind them. Dreams also carries scales, with the cheapest one only $12. They had a few fancy, intricate hookahs and a small sheesha selection. The store carried various boxed herbal detoxes, which is something I had never seen and wasn't carried at any of the other shops. The shop also carried posters, incense and it was the only store I visited to carry snacks.
814 E. Walnut St.
This tiny shop, located on Walnut, with convenient parking right outside, appears open and bright thanks to its numerous windows. This shop has a decent selection of average pipes, with a slightly higher price tag. Eye Candy has a huge selection of the most intricate, tall water pipes that I had seen all day. They carry Zong brand water pipes that range up to 3 feet tall. To go along with the water pipes, they carry plenty of intricate sliders and bigger bowls. This store doesn't carry any tapestries or clothing, but they do sell a small selection of rolled tobacco products. They also only take cash, so keep that in mind before you get there. They carried some hookahs and hookah accessories, but very little sheesha. The highlight of this store is definitely the intricately blown glass pipes, ranging from insect-shaped to star wars characters. Kept in glass display cases, the pipes seem to be more for looking at than smoking out of, hence the shop's name: Eye Candy.
3606 Buttonwood Dr. #104
Unlike the other shops, Retroactive isn't located in The District. The shop is located off Nifong and isn't in an obvious location. Located in a strip mall with a Bob Marley tapestry in the window, it's one of the most spacious shops that I visited, with the most natural light and the best music. It seemed like the main focus of this store wasn't just pipes, but tapestries, all kinds of incense and tie-dye shirts, among other merchandise. The store had a lot of basic-colored hookahs and more flavors of sheesha than I saw anywhere else. They have a large pipe selection, bright colors and all glass with good prices. Retroactive carries many storage containers, including ones disguised as soda cans, soda bottles and various other cans and containers. They also carry a decent selection of grinders and the largest selection of scales, starting at $20. This store was the only one that I visited to carry vaporizers, with the cheapest starting around $80 and going up from there.
17 N. Tenth St.
Aardvarx has one of the best locations, just off Broadway on Tenth Street, it's an easy walk from campus. They carry a large selection of tie-dye clothing and some tapestries. They sell incense, posters, magazines and jewelry as well. They have a variety of trinkets, such as little blown glass perfume bottles and perfume oils to add to the collection of items in the store. The pipe selection is average, it has just about anything you could want and they seem to have the best prices for basic pipes. The water pipe selection is small, and they don't have anything extravagant. They also sell cigarettes and loose tobacco.