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Pawn Broker

Rodney Jerabek saw an opportunity and made his move.

Rodney Jerabek tapped into the e-cig trend with his Five Pawns line of liquids and vaporizers that are sold in more than 10 states.

Rodney Jerabek tapped into the e-cig trend with his Five Pawns line of liquids and vaporizers that are sold in more than 10 states.

Rodney Jerabek tapped into the e-cig trend with his Five Pawns line of liquids and vaporizers that are sold in more than 10 states.

You know that expression, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”…? Well, sometimes what catches fire doesn’t start with smoke. In Rodney Jerabek’s case, it started with vapor. Nine months ago, he noticed the growing popularity of e-cigarettes—those odorless sticks considered a godsend among smokers trying to kick the habit. Fast-forward to today, and Jerabek’s Five Pawns vaporizers are sold in more than 10 states, and he just opened his first retail space (17145 Von Karman, Irvine, fivepawns.com)—a luxe den with a flavor bar for tasting. Here, Jerabek shares more of his story.

Why the name Five Pawns?
A pawn is used to further another person’s purposes. In chess, the pawn is often sacrificed, much like my liquids. And there are five traditional tastes known to the human palate: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and savory. Our initial offerings have flavors that satisfy each of the five tastes.

Tell us about your liquids.
At first, vapor liquids came mostly from China. The raw ingredients may not be the highest quality, or they might consist of basic artificial flavors. We offer a handcrafted, premium-level experience. Each offering goes through months of adjustments to find the perfect complexity. Like a great wine, the liquids need to age—the flavors must steep in order to be released.

How did you come up with your flavor profiles?
I consider myself a foodie and lover of good wine. I’ve also traveled a good deal and have experienced a lot of different tastes. I’ve developed a pretty good palate, and I wanted to create unique, layered tastes reminiscent of a good dessert, signature cocktail or a refined spirit.

Do you have a best-seller?
Gambit, Grandmaster and Queenside have a cultlike following. We’re having a hard time keeping them on the shelves.

Do they contain nicotine?
We actually make them with and without nicotine, and in five varying strengths.

The packaging’s nice…
We package in vintage 30 ml Boston Round bottles that are numbered and signed. We also put our bottles in secondary tube packaging to keep the liquid out of sunlight.

This is a venture among friends, right?
I met Rob Fitzgerald on the first tee of a golf course, and we’ve shared many cigars. We’re both business-minded and bring different strengths to the table. He knows numbers, and I’m more on the creative side. A few more friends have come onboard to round out the team.

So what’s next?
We’re beginning to distribute overseas as well. And it’s been so fun creating our own space—a place for our customers to sample our signature liquids and reserves that have aged and steeped in oak barrels. We also sell high-end devices, our Five Pawns starter kits and other various accessories. Like wine tasting, it’s an experience.