Karac Helus remembers exactly what his father said when he called to tell him the news: “The lottery just happened.”
The family had received an unexpected windfall in the form of an inheritance from a distant relative. A long-lost great aunt, to be exact.
After much deliberation, four of the men in the family decided they should use the windfall to go into business together.
“At first we explored franchises,” said Karac Helus. “But we decided against it. They’re too controlling.”
They settled on The Jackal, a store in downtown Chehalis specializing in leather motorcycle clothing and glass smoking accessories, used for tobacco and marijuana.
Four members of the family have 25 percent ownership in the venture: the elder Tom Helus Sr.; his sons, Tommy Helus III and Karac Helus; and cousin Peter Jacobsen.
The store opened Nov. 23.
“With the laws changing, we thought it would be a smart investment,” said Karac. “We wanted something that would last for a while. We want to use it to invest in the family.”
While the four family members did mean to seize on the opportunity created by marijuana legalization, the store also reflects a shared lifestyle.
“We’re all Harley riders,” Peter Jacobsen said. “We’ve been riding for about 15 years. We know what’s going to stand up and what’s not if you lay your bike down in the street.”
“We’re also smokers,” he said. “We thought mixing leathers and glass would be cool.”
On the leather side, the owners offer vests, chaps and jackets, with a 50-50 split between men’s and women’s merchandise.
On the second day of business, two women perused the racks, trying on vests.
“You have a very nice shop,” said one, Jan McKinnon. She and her friend, Sherri Scott, were drawn to the store because of their love of both leather and glass. Of the glass, McKinnon said, “It’s not as much a novelty as it used to be.”
Jacobsen said they hope to double the leather offerings soon.
They’re also looking into clothing for dirt bike and quad riders, realizing there’s demand in the community. They pay attention to what they see is popular with riders and what has durability.
On the glass side, they are fully stocked with custom originals made from handblown glass. All of it is local, Pacific Northwest glass from their supplier, Mary Jane’s House of Glass.
“It’s functional art,” Jacobsen said, retrieving a pink-and-gold pipe from a display case.
The glass reacts to the light, changing color as the light changes. Nearby are pipes bearing the names of sports teams, as well as a Hello Kitty pipe.
“That one’s been really popular,” Jacobsen said.
In a large display case is the store’s most valuable piece, Gooroo’s Home Defense model, so named because when you turn it on its side, it resembles a rifle. In a case lining the wall are pieces with glass shaped to create a tornado effect so the smoke cools through one or more chambers before it is inhaled. Other pieces glow in the dark.
Such items for sale in downtown Chehalis could cause controversy, but so far, the owners haven’t received a single complaint. They purposefully avoided any actual tobacco or marijuana products and have no interest in selling them.
They’re also strictly interested in retail, with no plans to sell online.
“We just like talking to people,” Jacobsen said.
The entire family recently relocated to Napavine from Vancouver, Washington, which Jacobsen describes as too big and noisy for their tastes.
“We like quiet, small communities,” he said.
Lisa Brunette is author of the Dreamslippers mystery series and blogs at www.catintheflock.com.