American e-liquid pioneer files for bankruptcy

The Wisconsin company was one of the oldest vape businesses in the country


Johnson Creek Vapor Company is closing on Oct. 10, and filing for bankruptcy. The Hartland, WI-based company is the largest independent vape business to close since ProVape shut its doors in February.

In an email sent to customers Monday, chief operating officer Heidi Braun wrote, “Our hope is to come out of bankruptcy and continue to make and sell products, but this is yet to be determined and we have no timetable to determine this.”

That indicates that Johnson Creek is filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could allow the company to reorganize if so ordered by the presiding judge.

One of the first e-liquid manufacturers in the United States, Johnson Creek began online sales in 2008. The company began operations in founder Christian Berkey’s home.

In 2010, the company started supplying cigalike maker Blu with PG-free e-liquid, which proved beneficial to both companies. The all-VG liquid was a hit, and Johnson Creek began selling a bottled line through its website too.

Blu challenged NJOY for top spot among convenience-store e-cig products, and eventually was sold to cigarette maker Lorillard Tobacco Company for $135 million in 2012. Within a couple years, Blu and Johnson Creek ended their partnership. In 2014, Republic Tobacco bought a reported 50 percent share of Johnson Creek.

Johnson Creek has fought for vaping. When the FDA announced its deeming regulations last year, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson quoted Johnson Creek founder Christian Berkey in his letters to the agency. Berkey was also involved in the effort by the Village of Hartland to pressure the FDA through the strategy of “coordination” to modify its rule.

Jim McDonald

I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.

  • TechieDJ

    Sad day indeed 🙁 the only place with quality trustworthy ingredients in the states to buy from when I quit smoking 8-9 years ago.

  • JR

    So sad. I’ve was with them since the beginning. Anybody remember Silverthorn flavor? I hope they come back. Really nice people worked there. I stocked up on their final sale but still sad.

    • cruisedoc

      Yep, remember Silverthorn – the original & the later reformulation. Heck, I remember the orig. JC Original & the later introduction of Red Oak. There was a point though when I felt the same minds that created the original flavors were not at work any longer.

  • cruisedoc

    Indeed a sad day. I wish I knew why, but I suspect such things as over-extending, i.e. deals with larger companies, big tobacco, and allowing a tobacco company to own a 50% interest. I suspect had they stayed on course with their original business formula for success they’d still be with us.

    • JR

      Yes, it’s such a booming business that I can’t fathom why they couldn’t make it work other than conflicted external sources like you mention.

    • Andy Fielden

      The market is over saturated and margins have been compressed to ridiculous levels. You guys need to wake up and smell the coffee because market forces are changing and you’re going to feel the full force effect!

      • cruisedoc

        Yes, but they were an early adapter & built a loyal clientele. I still think it was poor business decisions & getting in bed with 3rd parties, like big tob. Margins could afford to be compressed & price falls due to competition should have been as predictable as the sunrise. I make juice for less than 3 cents a ml. so anyone not profitable selling juice for $16, or even $12 or $10 or even $7 for 30ml is doing something wrong.

  • Pc

    Good for them! I had an issue with one of murders with them and I was told I was not welcome to place another order with them ever.. I was sent 2 of one flavor and none of another flavor that was ordered.. So I say good bye!