Adam: I managed a restaurant for 5 years
Me: Do you think any of that helped translate into operating the lounge?
Adam: Somewhat, but honestly it's has been a life of just winging it really.
Me: What kind of implication do you think the new FDA regulation will have on indoor smoking, or lounges in general?
Adam: I don't think anything more than they already are. You will always see again, the more liberal cities pushing more regulations take Los Angeles changing the smoking age to 21. I'm thankful to be here in tobacco country where the industry is pretty protected. Overall for hookah I am very for the regulation of how Shisha is produced. I want anything I'm putting in my body to be guaranteed safe and to know what is in it. It may hurt some smaller fly by night companies, but the people that do things the right way will be perfectly fine.
Me: So you think it's going to boil down more to how local government handles it for the most part?
Adam: I really think so and hope so.
Me: Well if so, you're safer than anyone in CA. So what do you think has caused the success that hookah and beyond has seen?
Adam: The product we use and care we put into it is huge, but I truly believe in the lounge industry or any service industry at that the most vital thing is taking care of customers and the personalities of the staff. I got so lucky to hire some of the most amazing people I've ever met and the connection they have to the community out here that we have created is like none I've ever seen.
Me: How many employees do you have?
Adam: 3 and myself now. 1 is newer. So the original 3 of us are really the core that has made this place what it is.
Me: Very nice! What products do you stock?
Adam: Pure, Ugly, Tangiers, Haze, Al Fakher, Nakhla, Fumari, Starbuzz, Trifecta, nirvana, Othmani, Al Rayan, and anything else interesting that pops up. We use Goodfella bowls, 80 feet bowls, Ferris bowls, and unglazed Egyptian funnel bowls for double Apple
Me: I notice a striking missing appearance of Fantasia, any particular reason why you don't carry that?
Adam: Because I love our customers. I will never serve a flavor that I have not personally smoked a good amount of. That doesn't mean I like everything we serve. I let the market dictate most of what we carry
Me: Are you turning a profit? Is opening a high quality lounge like H&B a sustainable thing to do?
Adam: Let me put it this way, last night at 4:30am I was still here mopping the floors and cleaning bathrooms. I make less than a full time McDonald's worker out here. We are definitely pulling at least even right now, and it gives me a stable job, but it is not easy by any stretch of the word.
Me: Well I never figured that it would be easy. Is it worth it, for you, as a true lover of the industry, to do it to yourself?
Adam: Absolutely. Not for the money. Or even the status, or being able to smoke a lot of hookah. It's worth it because of the people. The relationships. The people. The relationships I have made from this have been life changing.
Me: Did you anticipate it having such a large impact on your life?
Adam: Not in the slightest, one of the few things in my life I don't regret at all.
Me: What kind of hoses and hookahs do you use?
Adam: We use Starbuzz hookahs, and Shikas for double Apple. We use Aluminum D hoses, all color coded for flavor profiles, and we use thunder hoses for double Apple as they ghost real real nice. We use titanium flats, and Kaloud Lotuses on everything except Double Apple.
Me: Those are some very high quality materials. Are you the only lounge in Knoxville?
Adam: When we opened there were 3 within a half mile radius. The other two are gone now. There is only one other in a 30 mile radius now but it's more of a bar that happens to do hookah.
Me: Do you think you stole all of their business due to the high quality you offer?
Adam: Quality was part. Pricing was huge, and not restricting people by charging a cover or requiring a minimum amount of hookahs per people in the group. That, as well as the staff, massive.
Me: So basically being versatile? And giving customers options?
Adam: It was a plethora, but kind of just being customer focused and quality focused.
Me: So what do you think you could stand to improve on?
Adam: We are working this summer to do more events, more community outreach and get more involved in Knoxville even more. Impact the community as best we can.
Me: How so? Like giving back type of thing? Or like a catering type of thing?
Adam: Sort of, just getting more people together and building the little hookah community we have here, more events like trivia nights, maybe even doing a summer grill out here, stuff like that.
Me: Very nice! Do you think you've helped show Knoxville what a beautiful thing hookah is?
Adam: I definitely think we have made a bit of a difference to this point and look forward to doing more and more
Me: Do you think you guys do a good job catering to both new smokers and experts alike?
Adam: I think with the massive variety of products we carry we are really able to fit anyone's needs and help them along their hookah journey where ever that may be.
Me: Very nice. So, a more industry based question, why do you think there aren't as many quality lounges in the US like yourself?
Adam: Brilliant question. I think it's because a lot of people are stuck in the old ways of doing hookah and have no clue about customer service or the ever evolving industry.