Village Grannies: A Smoke Shop, Art Gallery, and Living Room All in OneVillage Grannies in downtown Manhattan looks and feels unlike any other smoke shop you’ve been inside.Published: August 19, 2019
There is a small stretch of sidewalk in the East Village where you will find two rocking chairs and, most likely, two grannies. They sit in a tiny alcove steps below the street, chatting over coffee and hand-rolled cigarettes. Neighbors stop by on their morning coffee run or evening constitutional to catch up. Dogs lap from a water bowl at their feet. There seems to be a reason for this peculiar arrangement—two 50-plus Israeli women in rocking chairs on a mostly commercial block—yet that reason is not readily apparent.
Until you see the sign above the alcove, a silhouette rendering of the two women’s faces in stark black and white. It announces “SMOKE SHOP” in boldface type, and “Village Grannies” in curlicued cursive.
Zviah Eldar and Vered Behr are the eponymous owners of Village Grannies, which is, indeed, a smoke shop. “We went with ‘grannies’ because it makes people more comfortable, more trusting,” explains Eldar.
Beyond the obvious novelty of its owners, Village Grannies takes a distinctively artful approach to the products being sold. One-of-a-kind glass pipes dangle from thinly knotted rope; glass and wood countertops display hand-blown water pipes in the shape of giraffes, dragons, and horses. All the technical smoking gear is there—bongs, bowls, vapes, lighters, et al.—but you’ll also find bouquets of sagebrush, handcrafted candles with poems inscribed on the jars, and thick paper cards designed by a young artist in San Francisco (who, incidentally, has the same arm tattoo as Behr). “It’s a lifestyle,” as Behr puts it.
The space is long, narrow, and conducive to meandering. Bright fuchsia block letters spell out “Life is Beautiful” on a wall spray painted gold. Pussy willows curl out from behind the rope display of pipes. The back feels like a veritable living room, replete with a cerulean couch, pillows hand-stitched with cannabis leaves, and squat, bulbous leather chairs. “It's not just about coming and buying something,” says Behr. “People can sit and chill out,” adds Eldar.
Eldar and Behr are the only people you’ll see behind the counter. “It was a conscious decision that both of us work at the store, and not anybody else, because we are the face of the store,” explains Eldar. “We know our customers. We know what they like.”
“It’s like life used to be,” Behr muses. “We are old enough to remember it, and maybe we're on some kind of a mission to bring it back.”