Introduction to Pipas CamaleonKen Kulow
Buenos Dias Amigo!; an Introduction to Pipas Camaleon.
Thank you for clicking through to allow me the opportunity to introduce my newest business venture: Pipas Camaleon; Chameleon Glass of Mexico.
Many of you know I was intimately involved with the passage of medical marijuana here in Arizona back in 2009. With early passage of cannabis legislation in an extremely conservative state, we laid the difficult groundwork for a host of other states to follow along the improbable trail we blazed.
During the campaign, I met many people from our Northern and Southern neighbors who shared my passion for safe access to Cannabis and who also admired the craftsmanship of Chameleon.
Canada was already well along the path to legalization and the real opportunity in my book was to our South. Mexico, Chile, Columbia and Panama were beginning to shift towards liberalization of Cannabis and since Uruguay had already legalized, it’s neighbor Brazil was probably not far behind.
While Chameleon was already recognized and sold in southern markets, our reputation was a luxury brand, inaccessible in price to anyone but the well-to-do. Matching a product to the disposable income of the average consumer in a country is a necessary metric to success. A high labor content product in a high labor cost market will not sell in a lower labor cost market. If I was to engage the market there, I would need to produce there.
Pipas Camaleon is not the only American inspired company in Mexico. I was not alone in seeing an opportunity, however, the other five players working in Mexico are taking more of a Grav Labs approach: misleading stores and consumers about where the product is made. Let’s just say that there are several well known / branded ‘Made in USA’ glass companies that are offering surprisingly good prices (30% less) at a time when labor in the USA, if you can find it, does not come cheap.
Unfortunately, Mexico has a regressive tax system. Resale licenses that remove tax liability for wholesale customers in the USA do not exist In Mexico. Taxes are assessed at every level of a transaction. Raw Materials, Wholesale and Retail are all taxed. Then, there’s the employment taxes. As you know, taxes on employment (FICA, FUTA, SUTA etc) in the US exist around the 14-17% mark in the US, while employment taxes in Mexico are over 30%. Much of the wage savings in Mexico are erased in taxes. The average cost advantage of production in Mexico is only 30% compared to the 80% advantage of dealing with china (1).
I choose to properly label these products as imported because I do not believe You or your customers deserve anything less than transparent information. The intentional mislabeling of products made outside of the United States is a blight on the American worker and has lead to the near extinction of many skills essential to an independent economy. As we personally witnessed and experienced during the pandemic, we are left wanting by our ‘partners’ in china when we provide them with the responsibility and control of essential skills and products important to American domestic interests. Pipemaking may not be ‘essential’, but the skills of manipulating glass into functional vessels definitely is. I hope we do not sacrifice that long term knowhow to short term pricing pressure from chinese knock offs.
Cannabis Entrepreneurs like Yourself have also voiced a concern over the mechanization and proliferation of mass produced glass from china. Prepackaged and sold to mega retailers to be available at every gas station and liquor store, like vape products and blunt wraps already are, leave little other than price differentiation as a means of sales. Hint: Circle K doesn’t keystone. Furthermore, if you think Amazon and WalMart aren’t going to immediately jump into direct competition with your store with the same chinese products you already carry, you’re not watching. This is an existential threat. Brick and mortar retailers are the most important channel to market for studios like Chameleon. If your store is not there, I’m not sure Chameleon would be here either. At a time of soul-less mass produced machine made consumption devices, there is nothing ignoble about returning to your roots and offering the sale of unique, hand made cannabis crafts in the form of Functional Art.
Since I don’t keep secrets, many of you already knew of the mexican venture. I was surprised that their reaction was not only acceptance, but an understanding of the necessity to embrace the opportunity for growth outside a mature market in the United States. And they wanted some!
Having a fabrication point in Mexico also serves American interests well in conjunction with the continued existence and support of the Chameleon operation in the US. Anyone concerned with illegal immigration should laud the provision of employment in Mexico over the current industry practice of encouraging the employment of non-citizens in border sweat shops. Mexican citizens are quite happy to stay home with their families, just like you, given the economic opportunity to provide for that family. Two of my employees in Mexico returned home from Austin when they heard Chameleon was opening a studio in Durango.
So, to diversify and create a new market in the western hemisphere outside of the US and Canada, I chose Mexico because of the historic honor placed on hand crafts in Mexico. Mexico City is also home to a Glass Center of Excellence, with several world renowned glass artists in residence and a host of companies in the Zona Rosa ‘Colonia” producing attractive glass packaging for the cosmetic industry. Mexico is not new to the noble art of hand crafted glass and I hope to be able to have a small spot as a contributor to the continuation of its rich history while continuing to support and add to the nascent history of lamp working in the United States with your continued patronage and support.
To begin, I am offering a selection of tried and true Chameleon staples like the Bonehead (#357 or M357) and Splat (#150 or M150) mixed together with organically designed Mexican models like the Corn (M4224) and Flaming Skull (M4522). I chose the existing Chameleon models to provide an example of their in-process development of craft and pricing reference, while also providing new and unseen creations created and marketed in the Western Hemisphere.
The craft of the artists at Pipas Camaleon in Durango, Mexico will improve in both creativity and efficiency. I guarantee more new designs, better craft and better pricing in the years to come. With great pride I now offer these products, labeled in truth, for sale to you next to (but not in place of) the amazing work of our American artists who will continue to produce fine hand crafted glass pipes in Phoenix, Arizona USA.
Chameleon Glass. Made in Phoenix, USA by American Citizens earning American Wages.
Pipas Camaleon. Made in Durango, Mexico; accurately branded and marketed to serve the Western Hemisphere.
(1) My family has a significant military background. From WWI, II, Korea, Desert Storm and Afghanistan, the Kulows have been there supporting our country. Pervasive as communist china has been allowed to become, I personally choose the disadvantage of avoiding empowering china, an enemy of the United States of America, in any way I can.