Meet the Village Grannies

interviewed by Brianna Flaherty | 11/30/18

My first point of contact with Village Grannies, a one of a kind smoke shop in the East Village in New York City, was the store website, which was forwarded to me by a friend ogling the wild design. I don’t smoke (no judgment if you do), but as I scrolled through the site I still found myself pausing to dress up the floating bong in sunglasses and a scarf (this will all make sense when you check out the site for yourself, I promise).

You don’t need to be a cannabis smoker or even a supporter to appreciate the space that Village Grannies founders Vered Behr and Zviah Eldar, 56 and 60 years old respectively, have cultivated. Entering the shop is almost like walking into an art gallery, which makes sense given both women's creative backgrounds. But it’s their shop name and logo—a colorful illustration of their faces—that represents what makes this place truly unique.

Yes, it’s a beautiful space to buy a truly one-of-a-kind pipe, but it’s also a brick and mortar representation of two women bucking cultural ideas about what “acting our age” should mean (if anything). I chatted with Vered and Zviah about how they got into this line of business, what sparks a career shift in your 50s, and why representing themselves exactly as they are is integral to the authenticity of their business.

Icon: How did you settle on the name “Village Grannies”?

Vered: Zviah came up with the name which we thought would represent us best. We wanted to create curiosity. Our store is in the East Village which has a young vibe, and we wanted the name [and logo] to reflect our age and gender.

Zviah: I think we really see a response from the customers that come in. Some of them come in because of the sign outside, and the curiosity it brings. Mainly, the idea was: Let’s put who we are and what we are out there, and not hide it. It may give confidence to our customers, and that was the main thing. That’s who we are. We’re not ashamed of it. We’re not ashamed of our age. It’s a fact.

Did you ever think you’d run a smoke shop?

V: Not in our wildest dream, we could never imagine a smoke shop being mainstream.

This must’ve been a significant career change for both of you. What sparked making the leap?

Z: I was a creative director, from my early 20s until we opened the store. I still do some creative directing, but mainly I wanted to shift my career after my kids finished college. I just couldn’t take the 24-hour a day workload. So, you know, I’d been thinking about it for a few years— how to shift, what to do after the kids are all grown up, and all the loans and the college payments were paid off. I wanted to see what I could do in the next stage of life. Vered is a good friend of mine for many years, and we both wanted to shift our careers, so we decided to see what we could do together. And here we are!

So the career shift seems like it was partly circumstantial, but something like this takes courage, no?

Z: It was always in the back of my brain, but also I think being friends—really good, good friends with Vered and trusting her— I think that gave me the confidence to decide: Let’s go together, rather than go it alone.

V: Well, for me, it wasn’t about courage. I think it’s very kind of you to say courage, but for me it was just… my life. I get bored with doing the same thing again, and again, and again. So it came from looking for excitement in my life.

I think many women dream of making a big shift, personally or professionally, at some point in our lives. Any advice you want to offer?

V: My advice is really out there and very clear, and I express it as often as people give me the stage: don’t listen to anybody, only to yourself. Other people are very quick to kill a lot of ideas, for whatever reason. If you’re interested in doing anything — and you’re passionate about it — go for it! The worst that will happen is that it’s not going to work out. But chances are that it will. Be brave, be brave, be brave. Don’t listen to anybody.

Z: And I think passion brings you a long way. If you’re really passionate about something, whatever anybody says — all the negative comments — will just be in the background. For me, if somebody says no, I look at it as: how can I make that a yes?

Experience the Village Grannies shop for yourself in the East Village in Manhattan or, for a taste of what they offer, check out their website or their beautiful Instagram.

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Jennifer Baumgardner is a feminist force: a writer, activist, publisher, filmmaker, and lecturer whose work explores abortion, bisexuality, rape, single parenthood, and women’s power. In her 20s she was the youngest editor of Ms. Magazine, and for the past 3 years she's led the charge as Executive Director at The Feminist Press.

Gerry Visco is a performer, writer, and photographer who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  During the day, she is the Director of Academic Administration and Finance for the Classics Department at Columbia University.  By night, she is a performer, certified yoga instructor, and club kid (so basically a real-life superhero, only with better style). I met up with her at her office to talk horoscopes, life goals, and finding love.

Robin Tewes is a painter originally from Queens, NY. Her work has been exhibited widely at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, P.S.1, and The Drawing Center. She is a professor of Fine Art at Pace University, and is going to be spending her summer painting at the Sam & Adele Golden Artist Residency in upstate New York.