Hookah Lounge in Washington, Missouri? You are not dreaming. Justin Miller, an ambitious young man and a Washington native, is opening one downtown in February. #5 W. Second Street, where Country Living and Antiques used to be, has been transformed into a cosy and modern hookah lounge in less than two weeks. According to Wikipedia, “The hookah lounge (also called a shisha bar or den, especially in Britain and parts of Canada, or a hookah bar) is an establishment where patrons share shisha (flavored tobacco) from a communal hookah or nargile which is placed at each table.The first Hookah Lounge in the United States dates back to 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
Hookah, or nargile like they call it in Turkey and we in Bulgaria, is the only thing I have ever smoked. Cigarettes have never been appealing, I hate the smell of cigarette smoke and it makes me sick when I am exposed to it for longer periods of time. When I was at the University, we had a friend from Turkey who brought his hookah one day, set it up and the apple tobacco smelled so good, that I gave it a try. Unlike cigarette smoke, it does not get trapped in your clothes and hair, leaving them stinking for weeks. It actually has a very pleasant smell, and it comes in a variety of flavors.
So, why did Justin decide to open a Hookah Lounge in Washington, Missouri? I met up with him to find out.
Meet Justin. He is only 25, but he already has a successful business. When he finished high school, he joined the Army and this changed his life.
Justin and his friend Tim, smoked their first hookah in Daytona Beach. They loved it and it turned into one of their favorite past times.
Justin, like everyone else who smokes hookah, wanted the smoke to come out colder. So, he invented this special ice tip, and called it Soğuk (it means “cold” in Turkish). At first, he only sold it locally in St. Louis. Then two other companies came up with similar ideas, however Justin’s product was much better. That’s when he decided to start marketing it. His goal was to sell 100 units in a month. He sold 2800 instead. That motivated him to keep going along with his idea.
After his initial success, Justin contacted one of the biggest distributer of hookahs and supplies in the USA and sent them a sample of his product. The next day after their received the sample, the owner of the company called him personally and placed a big order. That’s when Justin expanded his production. Every Soguk is hand-made, and now Justin has a distribution center in London which ships products to six continents. He still supervised the whole operation, making sure the quality is up to par.
Justin has always loved Washington, MO and that’s why he decided to open his hookah lounge downtown. His Soğuk production is based in St. Charles, but he would like to cater to people in the area who love smoking hookah and don’t feel like driving to St. Louis all the time. 10 years ago hookah was an unfamiliar term in the USA. However, in the last couple of years hookah lounges have been becoming more and more popular, as places where you can relax and socialize.
How does hookah work? Wet tobacco flavored with honey and molasses, called shisha (she-sha), is heated in a ceramic bowl with a coal on top. The smoke runs through a water base which cools it and makes it more enjoyable and pleasant.
The hookah lounge has different menu. Typical flavors of shisha include apple, grape, guava, lemon, mint, as well as many other fruit based mixes. Unusual flavors, including white gummy bear, blueberry muffin, and Powerbull flavor (similar to the flavor of a Red Bull energy drink), have been introduced in recent years. You will be able to rent a hookah from the lounge and pick what kind of shisha you would like to smoke.
The hookah lounge is a place to hang out and socialize with friends, and make new ones. The dimmed lights, comfy couches, and pleasant music make it the perfect place to go to after dinner. Both Justin and Tim don’t smoke cigarettes. Unlike the latter, hookah is not addictive. Justin invites everyone who has some concerns, to come and check out the hookah lounge for themselves before jumping to conclusions. As a new business in town, he plans to join the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Washington, Inc.
Justin will also have some hookahs for sale. I asked him what his parents thought about his new venture. He said that he was very doubtful at first, and didn’t think that there would be a market for it. However, when he saw how successful Justin’s invention was, he fully supported him. Justin even got his grandma to try the hookah, and she loved it.
The origin of the hookah is in India and Persia. In the middle east and Arab world, people smoke hookah as part of their culture and traditions. I the rest of the world, Hookah lounges are mostly found in college towns and urban areas and are regarded by some as a novel and chic way to socialize and embrace multiculturalism.
An elderly patron of an establishment in Turkey describes the advantages of the hookah lounge as follows:
“The important thing is not what you put in the pipe, but who is with you while you’re smoking…it’s a complete experience…in a cafe like this one, you find the good people, the old people, the interesting people. As long as there is a need for company and friendship, as long as people want to stop and think, there will be nargile cafes.”
Soğuk Hookah Lounge will be open for customers in February. To stay updated, you can like their Facebook page and visit their website here. Justin would like to express his gratitude to Marko, the owner of the Coughing Cardinal, for all the help and support he provided to get Soğuk Hookah Lounge set up and stocked!