Green House Smoke Shop to close after 21 years
By Michele Robinson
After 21 years, Green House Smoke Shop will close its doors forever on October 31. This year, Sandor Caplan and Bunny Lua, the shop’s co-owners, will clear out their remaining items and liquidate a business that has been the cornerstone of the Abbot Kinney community for decades.
“It’s very sad,” Lua said. “I’m losing my love. It’s heartbreaking and tragic.”
Lua and Caplan opened Green House Smoke Shop on April 20, 2000. Prior to operating the specialty shop, Lua managed Chronic Creations, located where the Venice Depot once was.
Caplan is a classically trained chef who prepared food for President George H.W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Newton and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. Prior to owning Green House Smoke Shop, Sandor owned a restaurant in Venice called Restaurant 5 Dudley.
“I wanted to do something that represented my lifestyle and I wanted to do it well,” Lua explained. “The shop was open seven days a week from 11ish to 7ish. We opened and closed whenever we wanted to go to the beach, to go to our son’s basketball games, etc.” she explains.
Longtime Venice residents since 1998, Lua and Caplan decided they wanted to open a store in their neighborhood because they loved their community. When deciding on a location for their store, Lua looked at Abbot Kinney Boulevard because it was the only place that offered affordable rent.
“At that time everything else was out of our price range,” Lua said. “I walked door to door and found that place. It was a boarded up 1920s California beach bungalow.”
Green House Smoke Shop offered the Venice community something different. Besides the traditional smoke paraphernalia, the shop carried local art and obscure things that related to smokers and smoking.
“I handpicked all of our pieces,” Lua said. “We represented local artists and other artists from all over the country. They were all proper smoking apparatus.”
Caplan and Lua’s love for the community is evident by all of the volunteering they did to help Venice.
“Sandor and I volunteered at anything that would improve the quality of life in our town,” Lua shared. “We spearheaded subcommittees and worked hard to accomplish it.”
Involved with the Abbot Kinney District Association (AKDA) since 2002, Lua and Caplan were instrumental in chairing beautification projects and creating safe crosswalks for residents. Through this organization they supported donating $25,000 to create a new playground for the Westminster Elementary School.
“Venice is my home, my son’s home,” Lua said. “I protect it so there’s something of a soul left in the future.”
One of the things that Lua is most proud of is spearheading the Abbot Kinney Festival from 2002 to 2013. Under her leadership, she brought in local artists, local businesses and nonprofits for a day of family fun. In its heyday, the festival attracted 250,000 people in one day.
“There are several ways to show patriotism and for me what better way than to spill it over to the neighbors, the community,” Lua said. “I started going to neighborhood meetings, understanding the rhythm of the community, listening to the voices that called for change and preservation. I joined local nonprofits like the Abbot Kinney District Association, Venice Chamber, Venice Unchained, Heal the Bay, Venice Boys and Girl Club, and Venice Arts to mention a few.
Due to their deep involvement in Abbot Kinney Boulevard and the community, they helped Abbot Kinney become “the coolest block in America,” according to a 2012 GQ Magazine article.
The reason Green House Smoke House is going out of business is because the property was sold. Because of the housing shortage and the new California laws (SB 9), once Lua hands in the keys, the space will no longer be zoned for business. It will become a single-family housing project.
The store has deep roots for Lua and her family. For over 20 years, the store was run as a family business. Caplan and Lua’s son, Leaf Lua-Caplan, was raised in the shop.
“My son grew up there,” Lua said. “He is now 19. I got pregnant after we opened.”
When asked how she felt about her shop closing, Lua said, “Everything in the universe is evolving. This change is inevitable, but honestly, the only feeling I have right now is a numbing lower vibration all over. I’m still in shock and broken hearted. It’s very scary.”
What’s even scarier is Lua is not sure how she will financially survive without the shop.
“COVID was hard because we were not considered essential,” she said. “I had to pay rent and owe back rent. I still have to take care of that.”
As for Lua’s future plans once the shop is closed, she said, “I have to look for another job, explore a deeper self and see what my next passion is. But before I look for another job, I have to mourn and heal. Only until then can I explore a new space in a new light.”
Ideally, she would like to open up another business, but the wounds are still too fresh and deep for her to think about it right now.
“The weight of this loss is daunting, but my life is the size of my life,” Lua said. “I thank everyone that was/is a part of this.”
Green House Smoke Shop