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Hippies owner shows it’s never too late to give peace a chance
by Michelle Zewin
Mar 13, 2008 | 3634 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Tony Contini</a> Joe and Kenna Miller own Hippies head shop on Victorian Avenue.
Tribune/Tony Contini Joe and Kenna Miller own Hippies head shop on Victorian Avenue.
<a href=>Tribune/Tony Contini</a> Along with vast varieties of incense and oils, Hippies has cards, stickers and gag gifts, such as this groovy sixties child.
Tribune/Tony Contini Along with vast varieties of incense and oils, Hippies has cards, stickers and gag gifts, such as this groovy sixties child.
Joe Miller is all about counterculture. If it’s mainstream, it’s not for him.

He’s also all about his rights. He learned about standing up for them, especially freedom of speech, when he was just 5 years old.

And he learned from the best.

Too young to have been a hippie himself, but Miller, 42, was always surrounded by them growing up. Whether done by his parents or neighbors, protesting was a common occurrence.

“I admire the hippie generation because of the way they fought back against the war in Vietnam,” Miller said “And against racial discrimination. It just stuck with me.”

Decked out in a bluish purple tie-dye shirt and a knit hat, he’s doing his part to make sure that culture doesn’t die out. Miller and his wife, Kenna, own Hippies, a smoke shop and provider of all things counterculture at 1921 Victorian Ave. Whether it is clothes, anti-government stickers or Grateful Dead memorabilia, Hippies has a variety of items not found in normal stores.

“People always ask why we have this store,” Miller said. “It’s just that sometimes the government isn’t always right. And one of the rights we have is to protest. And freedom of speech. That’s what (the store) is.”

Several years ago, Miller opened Art Dogs 2, a runoff of the Art Dogs and Grace smoke shop at 218 Vassar St. in Reno. Not long after, he broke away from Art Dogs and started a completely separate business, calling it Hippies.

Miller said the top seller is incense. He now provides more than 200 scents. The selection lining one of the store’s counters is nearly overwhelming.

“Our heart is the incense,” Miller said. “We make incense like Krispy Kreme makes donuts. It’s our specialty.”

Miller and his staff of four make the incense weekly in a shop behind the store.

“Over 1 million sticks have passed through my hands,” Miller said.

He joked about how once anybody makes that much incense they get a scent named after them. Take the scents of opium and sunshine and mix them with a little patchouli and other ingredients and the result is Joe’s Special.

Miller said he learned how to make incense years ago when he lived in California. He said the Muslims and Rastafaris were known for making and selling the stuff. Once again, he learned from the best.

“We make incense the same way they made it when Christ walked the earth,” Miller said. “The only difference is we’re using tubs instead of clay pots.”

Aside from the incense, Hippies has quite the selection of water pipes, as any smoke shop would. Several cases are filled with them but Miller said the pipes only account for 20 or 30 percent of sales.

While Miller admits that the pipes are sometimes used for reasons other than what they’re intended for, he does not advocate such use.

“Yes, some products can be used for illegal purposes but we don’t promote that,” he said. “If we think that is their purpose for buying something we ask them to leave.”

Miller said he’s had rocks thrown at his windows for owning Hippies and that people sometimes comment that he promotes negative activities.

“But people like that are so narrow minded,” he said. “This isn’t a drug thing. Hippies are more than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”

But he’s not saying that his store doesn’t ever see the negative side effects of the culture. Miller explained that people have entered the store intoxicated before. He said he reprimands them for jeopardizing his business and kicks them out.

Instead of illegal drugs, the water pipes Hippies sells are intended for tobacco. Miller said tobacco is in high demand in Nevada and pipes are a great alternative to the usual method of smoking.

“Why be boring and smoke it out of a cigarette?” he asked.

After incense, the next big seller is flavored tobacco, Miller said, especially since the hookah craze popped up in the last few years. While Miller notes that the United States economy is in a bit of a decline, he said there is never a decline in demand for what Hippies offers

“There’s always somebody wanting a peace sign,” he said.

Miller said he would like to expand Hippies, especially so that there is room for patrons to taste the tobacco, but that may be off in the future since the open land surrounding the store isn’t affordable.

“There’s such a diversity of happiness here,” Miller said. “There’s a good aura.”
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