Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Smoke Shop's Sign Has Critics Fuming

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Smoke Shop's Sign Has Critics Fuming

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK -- A new smoke shop on Main Street is stocked with bongs, bowls and blunts, but it's what's on the outside that is really getting people fired up.

The name -- Fu King Smoke Shop -- is plastered outside on the awning of the red-lit, bamboo-lined store at 689 Main St. in the city's quiet Fairmount section. The store has not opened yet, but it's already attracting attention from parents and on social media. Residents say it's a thinly veiled profanity and that it doesn't belong in their neighborhood, a block away from an elementary school.

"It's almost like it's an insult to the intelligence of our community. Do you really think we don't know what that is supposed to mean? That our children don't know what that means?" said Michelle Tavares, president of the Parent Teacher Association at the nearby Fairmount School.

Some parents and residents want the city to take action and compel storeowner Robert Reichert to change the sign. Reichert said he received the city's permission to put up the sign, although a zoning official disputed that and issued the owner a summons for failing to get the proper permit. Reichert also said the sign wasn't inappropriate and that Fu is Chinese for wealth or lucky and part of a theme.

"There is a meaning behind it," Reichert said. "It's not just words thrown up on the canvas. If they're offended by reading it, then it's the way their mind is looking at it."

Still, Reichert said he was willing to talk to residents and would be open to changing the design of the sign -- which has a crown image between the Fu and King -- but he is not willing to change the name, which he said was his company's brand. He said he intends to fight the summons when it comes up for a court hearing.

Reichert also said he was marketing tobacco products and paraphernalia and not promoting the use of marijuana, which is illegal in New Jersey except for approved medicinal purposes. He noted that there were several other smoke shops and hookah stores in the city and that he, too, had the right to sell to smokers.

But Fu King is the kind of novelty smoke shop one might find in a quirky college town, Manhattan's West Village and nowadays Colorado, which just legalized marijuana sales for recreational use, fueling a new aboveground pot industry there.

The Hackensack store is decorated with posters for the rapper Biggie Smalls, the ska-punk group Sublime, Chinese lanterns, a statue of the Buddha, a lava lamp and a mannequin in a "blunt master" costume that looks like, well, a big blunt -- sort of a marijuana cigar. The store's phone number is 201-420-YEAH. The exchange 420 happens to be a popular slang code for marijuana use.

On the shelves are boxes of tobacco, lighters and bongs of various colors and shapes -- including one made from a Jack Daniels bottle and another in the shape of a toilet. …

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