When you walk up to Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery in South End’s Business District, the first thing that greets you is a big warning sign on the door. It explicitly states how old you must be to enter and other rules patrons must obey. To many, this kind of warning means there could be trouble ahead, but when you enter the clean, well-lit space Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery seems different than head shops with similar warnings.
Mr. Nice Guy’s opening caused quite a stir amongst members of the community. Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville took particular issue with the gallery, suggesting its proximity to Nishuane School and the potential illegal use of the products it sells were troubling enough to warrant its closure. Dr. Baskerville and several other community members were quick to classify Mr. Nice Guy as a “head shop,” but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery is far different than your typical smoke shop.
Abdo Farghaly, the owner of Mr. Nice Guy, originally opened the shop in Elizabeth, N.J. with his father. Then called Mr. Nice Guy Smoke Shop, the store sold hookahs and similar products. His father had owned a hookah bar when he lived in Egypt, and the store became a way for the two of them to bond. After the death of his father, due to smoking related complications, Fargahly decided he would focus on selling glassware rather than the cheaper tobacco products. After seeing different pieces by famous artists, Farghaly admits, “I just fell in love with it.” But the location of Mr. Nice Guy Smoke Smoke Shop, began to get in the way of Fargahly’s new business model. Realizing the town of Elizabeth was not the best place for attracting the type of customers he sought, Farghaly decided to relocate.
He picked Montclair because, as he puts it, “it’s a classy town.” Farghaly liked the safety Montclair provided as well as its reputation as being a haven for the arts. When he secured a location in Montclair he renamed his store Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery to better represent the products he was selling. Farghaly noted there were similar shops in the area and liked the idea of some healthy competition.
What distinguishes Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery from similar stores is the quality of the pieces it sells. Farghaly wanted to showcase the “best artists in the game,” selling high-end glassware that ranges in value from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Many of these pieces are rare “one of one” collaborations that can’t be found anywhere else. Connoisseurs from all over have taken an interest Mr. Nice Guy’s products, from beautiful pendants to intricate glass pipes; and business has been very good, according to Farghaly.
The proprietor of Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery was less than pleased with the reception he received from a small sector of the community upon opening. “I’m just here to make an honest living,” says Farghaly, “I have thousands of thousands of dollars invested [in this].”
Farghaly stresses that despite the accusations floating around, he is simply selling art. “It’s not a convenience store.” says Farghaly, “I sell art, I’m an art dealer.” Julie Johnson of the bakery Cakeaholic Obsession , near Mr. Nice Guy, shares a similar sentiment. “I don’t think that his [Farghaly’s] store is geared towards the community” says Johnson, “it’s geared more towards artists…it’s art.”
Farghaly doesn’t understand why members of the community are prying into his business. He has removed certain products from the storefront, put a warning on the door, and even purchased an identification verification system. He has also become friendly with his neighbors, most of whom are perfectly fine with his business.
“I’m not gonna get bullied,” says Farghaly, insisting he will continue operating his business as he intends to. “Everything is going to be good.”
Mr. Nice Guy Glass Gallery, 324 Orange Rd, Montclair, 973-893-5505