ROBINSON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Kids at J.W. Burkett Elementary in Robinson Township memorize their times tables and their ABCs, but parents hope they learn nothing about the store across the street, which they say sells and advertises drug paraphernalia.
“It’s called a ‘headshop.’ I know the owner doesn’t think that, but that’s what they sell. They sell rolling paper and bongs and things of that nature,” said Lisa Smarra, the president of the PTA.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Is this a headshop?”
Owner Rick Sallade: “No, it’s not a headshop.”
Sallade resists the characterization, but in addition to electronic cigarette, the Glass Gone Wow features a vast array of what he calls waterpipes – what you may more readily call bongs, elaborate glass constructions that drug smoker believe gives them a better high.
The store is posted with signs that say they are for tobacco use only.
Sheehan: “Most people would use these to smoke marijuana or hashish.”
Sallade: “Uh, I suspect that some people do, yes.”
Sheehan: “What a small minority?”
Sallade: “Yeah, real small.”
Parents like Emily Boris aren’t buying it.
“It’s promoting drug use,” said Boris. “I don’t know many people who smoke tobacco in a bong.”
The PTA has complained loudly to the township for allowing the store to locate across from the school, but Robinson Township Police Chief Dale Vietmeier says he even went to the Allegheny County District Attorney to try to stop it, but could not.
“It’s not an appropriate place to be, but we have to live with it. We have to live with it because it does meet the requirements, it’s zoned properly, and yes, that business can be put there. And that’s exactly what happened here,” said Chief Vietmeier.
“If it can’t be close, if it can’t be relocated, for the future, I’d like to work with the commissioners about having a restrictive zoning ordinance so a shop like this can’t open near our elementary schools or near our preschools or our churches.”
Sallade says he’s staying put, believing that his store poses no threat to children.
“I’m not trying to evade the issue, but that’s the cold hard facts of life,” he said. “They’re going to find out about and make their own choices as they get older.”