At Bliss CBD Shop, handblown glass pipes can resemble anything from a bowl of ramen to the eggplant emoji. Credit: Courtesy Bliss CBD Shop

Picture your happy place. Perhaps your oasis from stress involves a glass of wine, a bubble bath, and a good book. Maybe a joint or a CBD bath bomb is more your speed. Christine Yu, owner of Bliss CBD Shop, thinks that many women are choosing the latter option to unwind.

“Since I’ve been in this business, I’ve noticed that a lot of women who are 35-plus are using cannabis to help relax at the end of the evening,” Yu said. “But they’re too scared to go to the shop and buy a cute smoking accessory, so instead they’re just dipping into a gas station and buying whatever cheap pipes they have there.”

This kind of surreptitious purchase exasperates Yu. She believes that there should be a space where women can take their time and ask questions about cannabis and smoking accessories, but she’s found that most smoke shops give off bros-only vibes. Out of the need for a haven for female stoners, Bliss CBD Shop was born.

Bliss CBD Shop opened its doors in Albany Park this February. The store, which advertises “CBD, pretty pipes, and sexy toys” on its front window, lives up to its female-friendly ideal with Instagram-worthy aesthetics and picturesque products. At Bliss, flowers bloom from hand-blown water pipes, you can smoke from a tiny glass cactus or pomegranate, and it’s hard to tell the difference between a vape and a vibrator.

Yu knows that the wide array of products at Bliss can be daunting to some customers, but she’s there to answer any and all questions. “It could be something as simple as how to use a water pipe,” she says. “For a lot of people that might sound basic, but it really isn’t. If you were lucky enough to have someone show you how to use one in college, then you’re set. But there’s a lot of people, especially the older generations, that are not used to using a simple pipe.”

Even I, a college student and self-identified weed nerd, was unfamiliar with some of Bliss’s products. The glass selection transcends the typical pipes offered at my neighborhood smoke shop, blurring the line between art and function. Yu mentioned that she’s thought about hosting a gallery night with local glassblowers—and if she could showcase some female artisans, that would be even better.

While the glass and gadgets are more popular with Bliss’s millennial clientele, the CBD products draw in an older demographic. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a nonpsychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis. Although it is not FDA approved, CBD is popularly used to relieve anxiety, inflammation, and other ailments.

Bliss offers CBD tinctures, topicals, flower, and edibles—and that’s just the basics. To complement the selection of sex toys, there’s also some CBD-infused lubricant that Yu says can be helpful for women who have trouble naturally lubricating postmenopause, or for those who experience pain during sex due to scar tissue.

You’ll also find custom-made products at the shop, including Venus & Flora, Bliss’s proprietary CBD oil. Yu worked with her friend Jorge Apacicio, a formulation specialist at Hemp for Fitness in Glenview, to develop what is essentially a signature scent for the Bliss brand.
Apacicio says he chose a couple of terpenes, which are essential oils found in cannabis and other plants, to create an aromatic profile for Venus & Flora. The terpenes give the oil a one-of-a-kind fragrance as well as an extra “calming and relaxing effect,” Apacicio said–think of it like a CBD-aromatherapy love child.

Venus & Flora may sound like bottled bliss, but Yu says people need to treat CBD as a lifestyle change in order to see the full effects. “You can’t take CBD but continue eating the way that you do or drinking or not being active and expect it to do something miraculous,” she said. “You need to make those changes in your life as well for the CBD to be at its optimal level.”

Such a shift requires a financial commitment—Bliss’s products aren’t cheap. The most popular CBD tincture in the store costs $80 for a bottle that will serve about a month of daily use, and a handmade pipe can go for as much as $100. However, Yu maintains that someone could spend that money on a spa treatment, a fancy dinner, or a night of drinking. So, she asks, why not invest in a different kind of self-care?

Between the girly comfort of the store and the luxury appeal of a boutique glass piece or CBD oil, perhaps what Yu is really selling is the Bliss lifestyle. She says she hopes that when recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois next year, women will be excited to invest in quality smoking accessories and explore cannabis freely. In the meantime, she has created a space where relaxation is a reality and women can treat themselves, whether they’re seeking sexual pleasure or an herbal remedy.  v