This June 2022 will mark 12 years of Mr. Nice Guys stores open in Corpus Christi. What started off as a lone shop on Staples St. has now evolved into 7 area stores, as well as locations in Victoria and soon-to-be San Antonio. Mr. Nice Guy himself, Leroy, has had quite the journey to get Mr. Nice Guys to where it is today. Below is an article detailing the shop’s history, its culture, and the growth of the brand.
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If you’ve ever been to a Mr. Nice Guys shop, you’re probably well aware of the brand’s casual vibe and chill atmosphere. This is no customer service sham; the folks at Mr. Nice Guys are, well — genuinely nice. I sat down with Mr. Nice Guy himself, Leroy, to talk about the history of the shop, its culture, and the growth of the brand.
“I always wanted to start a smoke shop,” says Leroy, a Corpus Christi local and jack-of-all-trades. The year was 2010 and he was selling products out of his vehicle to smoke shops around town, and he noticed a trend.
“I’m meeting with other shop owners and I’m like, dude — these guys don’t even care. Like seeing how they do business, they don’t care. They don’t care about the product, nothing.”
Leroy saw that not only did these owners not care about their own business or products, but they weren’t nice or friendly to do business with, and they left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Flashbacks and places like that — they were all rude. Just asshole people tucked away in a corner, and I wanted to be something better.”
So, he got to work building a brand that could not only outperform the competition — but be nice about it, too. But, the road was not a smooth one; I mean, come on — it is Corpus, after all. “Nobody wanted to rent to me, nobody wanted to give me the time of day. No crew, no nothing — I had friends. That’s what got me all the help I needed.”
And through the help of friends and lots of sweat, the first Mr. Nice Guys opened “on the busiest street in Corpus Christi. There wasn’t another shop out there in the middle of the open like that. Everybody just stopped there. We put money into a new sign, and I lived and breathed in that store for about two years.”
The sign he’s referring to — the iconic Mr. Nice Guys’ logo — was designed by Leroy’s own, at the time, 13-year-old little sister, who has now graduated from college in computer design.
When he said ‘live and breathe,’ he meant it: “I put every dime I had into this. Actually — money I didn’t have — I borrowed the product, a lot of the product. I went and bought display cabinets when they were closing the mall. It took forever to get permits from the city; we were sitting there without lights.
“But, I’d be there for hours every day, ya know, just talking to whoever stopped by. I lived there — had a couch in the back and a TV. This was before you could Chromecast, so you know, I had a DVD player. And that’s all I did. I’d go shower at my sister’s — do whatever made it work.”
And make it work, he did. Leroy found enough success with Mr. Nice Guys on Staples St. to open up the shop at Six Points in those first years, as well.
Unfortunately, the universe’s plan isn’t always what we expect. Mind you, 12 years ago the climate surrounding this industry was different — by a lot. In regards to Big Brother’s involvement — “they didn’t want anyone to have longevity, to be big. They wanted you to be a small mom and pop tucked in a corner somewhere.”
Even in its infancy, Mr. Nice Guys was not small, not tucked away, and was anybody but your mom and pop. This all swirled into a time Leroy refers to as a sign from the universe that “I needed to be humbled more.” And Mr. Nice Guys at Six Points shut its doors.
“When I tell you I started with nothing, it’s because I lost everything.” For all of his time spent building up Mr. Nice Guys, Leroy had found his low. But he wasted no time in getting back up, eventually purchasing the building he had originally rented as the Six Points store.
The newly owned Mr. Nice Guys shop at Six Points went through a little face lifting: “we put in all brick, we took out the gas pumps — that place is brand new.”
After watching that building be put to various uses in the 6 years since Mr. Nice Guys vacated it, it felt good to be back. “That was nice. That was like a ‘Fuck yeah!’ — one for the good team.”
The two shops at Staples St. and Six Points aren’t the end of the Mr. Nice Guys story, though. Along the way, Leroy has met a number of other people who have a calling and a passion for the industry — and Leroy has always been ready and willing to spread the love.
I asked him “so, you just kept running into lovely people who were interested in opening more stores and telling ‘em yes?” The answer: “why would I say no?
“I wanted to spread out, it’s fun. And it’s cool to watch how everybody takes on this little culture with their own little twist.”
And so it spread. You can now find 7 Mr. Nice Guys shops in Corpus Christi from central city to the Island, as well as shops in Victoria, and soon-to-be in San Antonio.
The vibe of Mr. Nice Guys has always been welcoming. Even today — from the Staples St. shop to Leroy’s own office — open door is the policy. You’ve got questions, come ask ‘em; you’ve got an idea, come bounce it around; you just want to come hang out, come on in. Mr. Nice Guys is serving everyone equally — from people just learning about CBD to folks amping up their dab rig setup, Mr. Nice Guys is welcoming. And that all goes back to those assholes running the pompous smoke shops in Corpus’ older days. Mr. Nice Guys wanted to be better, and they succeeded.
Though the vibe is generally relaxed, a golden rule from Mr. Nice Guy himself: “always be nice to the customer — until its not called for.” At Mr. Nice Guys, niceness is a two way street, and Leroy supports his employees as though they were family.
This support extends far beyond having employees’ backs with rude customers, however. Leroy recognizes that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his crew.
“You build up. They come up with you, you’ll never fail — that’s how it should work, I believe. I’ve always been this way and it’s never really held me back, ya know. You have to treat everybody with respect.” And not only does he treat his employees with respect — he’s looking out for their futures and their families.
“If you make it, and you don’t give anything back, did you really make it? I want everybody — that manages my shops, who’s been here forever — to have a piece of this.” And he means it, too; after my meeting with the head honcho, he met with his attorney, as he’s setting up a living trust for the long-standing employees of the company so that their families might have a legacy with Mr. Nice Guys.
In fact, you don’t even need to be a part of the Mr. Nice Guys team for Leroy to extend a helping hand to you — all you need to do is ask. “I’ve helped more than half of these other major stores in Corpus become who they are today,” loaning out money and inventory to help struggling shops get steadily on their feet.
“I did that for my competitor. It’s not an act, I don’t care if you are my competitor — or whatever, I’m gonna help — unless you’re Crazy Craig. I don’t like Crazy Craig and I won’t help that fucker.”
Talking about the culture of the brand and how “it’s cool what it’s becoming,” Leroy himself is beaming. He’s excited to talk about his business — but more so the people along the way and how the business has really changed his outlook on life.
I told him “you know, you have that reputation as “Mr. Fuckin’ Nice Guy!” He laughs, and says “I believe it’s a lifestyle, too. You can’t fake this. I can’t turn it off. I’m just so happy.” And it really does radiate throughout his whole personality, and, ultimately, the business itself — “it wears off on everybody.”
This June 2022 will mark 12 years since the original opening of Mr. Nice Guys on Staples St. It has been one whirlwind of a ride for Mr. Nice Guy, but he wouldn’t change it for anything. “I have felt so blessed for so long with what I’ve gotten to do. I do believe I did find my calling.”
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